In one of Britain’s toughest budgets in years, the BBC has been told it must freeze the licence fee for six years and take over the cost of the World Service, currently funded by the Foreign Office, and the Welsh language TV channel S4C. This adds up to an estimated 16% cut in the BBC’s budget in real terms.
Chancellor George Osborne told Parliament the cut is “similar to the savings made by government departments” as he confirmed that the government has “struck a deal” that will see the licence fee frozen for six years, ccording to The Guardian newspaper.
He confirmed the BBC will take on responsibility for the previously externally funded World Service, BBC Monitoring and Welch channel S4C, as well as helping to meet the cost of rolling out broadband internet access to rural areas. This will save the government £340m from general taxation.
“To ensure the cost is not passed on the the licence-fee payer… the licence fee will be frozen for the next six years,” Osborne told Parliament. The average cut to Whitehall departments in the comprehensive spending review is 19%.
Robert Black, the auditor general for Scotland, told the BBC the cuts would be “ugly”, “severe” and “dismal” with the country facing “a long, hard financial winter.”
The Murdoch press, which has been advocating for BBC cutbacks, also covered the cuts in The Australian (BBC faces spending squeeze) and the Wall Street Journal (U.K. Broadcasters to Benefit From BBC’s Budget Cut).