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Posts Tagged ‘Sir Michael Lyons’

Is the BBC using licence fee payer’s money correctly?

Posted by willd2 on November 6, 2008

Russell Brand resigns from Radio 2 and apologises for leaving abusive messages on Andrew Sachs’ answerphone:


In recent weeks the BBC has suffered something of a public relations disaster.

Following ‘Sachsgate’, Russell Brand and Lesley Douglas both resigned from their jobs at Radio 2 and Jonathan Ross has been suspended.

Complaints made to Ofcom, after Brand and Ross left abusive messages on former Fawlty Towers actor, Andrew Sachs’ phone, have now risen above the 30,000 mark.

The incident has sparked a debate around the BBC’s rules regarding self-regulation and the organisation’s use of licence fee payers’ money.

Plan for local websites comes under fire

Criticism has also been aimed at the corporation after lawyers representing the local UK press organisation, the Newspaper Society, wrote to the BBC Trust and Ofcom to ask for the review into a new website scheme to be suspended.

The BBC’s proposals to develop 60 local news websites, at an estimated cost of £68 million, are considered to pose a serious threat to local newspapers.

Neil Benson, editorial director for Trinity Mirror’s regional titles, told the journalism industry website, ‘It’s going to seriously distort the market place the fact the BBC are ploughing extra millions upon millions of pounds of licence fee payers’ money into an area that we feel is already well served.’

The journalism industry website, Press Gazette reports that the Head of the BBC Trust, Sir Michael Lyons responded to criticism by saying that whilst the ‘rising noise and anxiety’ from the BBC’s commercial rivals was understandable, ‘there’s nobody who can be satisfied with the quality of local news in most parts of the United Kingdom.’

Lyons also dismissed the idea of the BBC sharing its licence fee with other public service news provider, such as ITV and Channel 4, and urged commercial rivals to come up with their own proposals about how to save the future of journalism.

Is Ross worth ‘1000 BBC journalists’?

Much of the debate about the BBC’s use of the licence fee has focused on Jonathan Ross’ three-year, £18 million contract.

Last year, whilst hosting an annual comedy awards ceremony, Ross joked, ‘I’m worth 1,000 BBC journalists’.

As reported in The Independent, this comment angered many in the industry, and provoked a response from Jeremy Dear, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), ‘Jonathan Ross’s comments were obscene at a time when thousands of his fellow BBC colleagues are facing losing their jobs.’

It also brings into question the BBC’s priorities, which should be about quality news and journalists, first and foremost, but is not really reflected in salaries. They seem to think that having one light entertainment presenter is better than having 600 broadcast journalists.’

The fallout

The video journalist, Michael Rosenblum wrote in his blog, ‘is it right to oppose any investment in local journalism? Should we stand back and watch papers down-size and yet deny the rights of an alternative news-provider to step into the vacuum?’

Much has been made of The Daily Mail running the Brand and Ross story on the paper’s front page for four consecutive days, adding a new strand to the private versus public sector broadcaster debate.

In an article in The Guardian, Peter Wilby wrote, not for the first time, the Mail showed that, in this country at least, newspapers can still lead the news agenda and alter the national mood.’

Wilby also said, ‘if they are to survive, British papers need to preserve and develop their individuality. The Mail, in the past week, has shown them how.’

Indeed, this debate appears to be turning into one about identity and how best to preserve it.  The financial crisis is having an obvious impact on proceedings and the future remains very much unclear, not just for smaller newspapers, but also for the BBC.


Will Drysdale (

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