The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) is warning that a below-inflation increase to the BBC licence fee next year could result in 'less journalism' – including a drop in its national and local news output.
The warning follows a report in The Times
that UK Government ministers have reportedly refused the BBC's pleas for an increase in line with inflation, as it has received in recent years, saying they expect the corporation to make the 'same efficiency savings as everyone else'.
chief reporter, Charlotte Tobitt, explains that the next BBC licence fee settlement will cover five years from April 2022, and points out: 'The licence fee currently brings in £3.8 billion according to the BBC's annual report for 2020/21. The previous year it was £3.5 billion – meaning an increase of 7% after the household cost rose in line with inflation from £154.50 to £157.50 in April 2020'.
The NUJ claims the BBC's funding has already been cut by about 25% in real terms since 2010 and that director-general Tim Davie's plan to move 200 news jobs out of London over the next few years needs the inflation-matching increase to work. Paul Siegert, the NUJ's national broadcasting organiser, says any below-inflation increase would be a 'hammer blow' for the BBC, stifling its ability to maintain its levels of journalism, commenting: 'The corporation has proved itself to be an essential component of British society, especially during the global health pandemic, and audiences have been glued to their services when the country has been put under lockdown'.
Siegert maintains that the effective funding cut would mean the BBC will be able to offer less to the public – less local and national news, less journalism, less on the radio, website and TV, and less diversity and less quality programming and output. 'There is certainly the money available to sufficiently finance the BBC – it is the political will and support that has been shortcoming', claims Siegert, adding: 'This is the first real test Tim Davie has faced since becoming director-general and if this is the outcome then he has been found sadly wanting'.
BBC News has already had to cut more than £80 million per year from its budget and, according to the NUJ, staff agreed to accept a below-inflation pay rise earlier this year.
Tobitt says that the UK Government declined to deny the story in The Times
, reporting: 'According to the Press Association (PA), the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: We haven't set out our proposals for the licence fee at this point. The next settlement covers the next five years from April 2022. No decisions have been made and we'll announce a decision to parliament in due cours
e'. The BBC declined to comment.
Many of of the UK's media folk, myself included, were very saddened towards the end of last year with the death of Bill Jamieson at the age of 75. He was executive editor of The Scotsman
from 2000-2012, former economics editor of The Sunday Telegraph
and former business correspondent of Thomson Regional Newspapers.
Now his family have issued an invitation to attend a service of thanksgiving and celebration of Ayrshire-born Bill's life at 2pm on Friday 8 October at Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh. It will help the family to assist with numbers if you could let them know if you plan to attend by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
Those of you familiar with Bill's splendid sense of humour and predilection for the colour of a certain item of his attire will much appreciate his advice on dresswear for his service:
Mourn me not with apparel of black,
But dress in colour and rejoice with me;
… and red socks!
Journalism examiners have praised the increased support trainees are receiving from their newsrooms. The annual examiners' report has just been published for the National Qualification in Journalism (NQJ) by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) after 56 new seniors qualified in 2020-21.
The best result in terms of pass rate came as a result of the e-logbook aspect of the examinations, with just one out of 64 candidates failing in the category. The section's chief moderator, Darren Isted, praised a 'pleasing period' for logbook submissions and credited newsrooms for the way they had supported their candidates over the course of the past year.
Darren wrote: 'Logbooks submitted this year covered news and community journalism roles. The standard of key tasks submitted across these two pathways has risen and markers noted stronger work across a number of these tasks. It has also been noted that candidates seem to be getting more support from within their own organisations – this and the rise in quality may be connected'.
Congratulating the newly-qualified seniors, NQJ chief examiner, Andy Martin, said their success had been 'no mean feat given the extraordinary challenges of the past year-and-a-half', adding: 'Many journalists have found themselves working from their bedrooms or dining room tables during the pandemic, away from the buzz, close support and creative camaraderie of the newsroom. Indeed, for some new to the industry, that is all they have known so far. This makes their work in reporting the news day in and day out even more impressive – and one that is more important than ever for so many reasons'.
Congratulations to Lauren Brownlie of the Clydebank Post
and Ryan Nicolson of The Shetland Times,
who were among the young journalists who achieved the NQJ standard this year.
The NCTJ's Journalism Diversity Fund (JDF) was presented with a Special Award recently in The Press Awards 2020. The JDF was established in 2005 with the support of the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA) Media Access scheme to encourage more people from diverse backgrounds to train as journalists. The JDF is supported by 21 media organisations that wish to help make newsrooms better reflect the communities they serve.
Since its launch, the fund has awarded more than 400 bursaries to support aspiring journalists from diverse background through NCTJ-accredited courses. Now 80% of those supported by a JDF bursary and mentoring are working in journalism. Recent recipients include Nadine White, The Independent's
first dedicated race correspondent, and Rianna Croxford, the BBC's youngest news correspondent.
The NCTJ announced an ambitious goal at the start of 2020 of raising the annual value of the fund to £500,000. Since then, the JDF has welcomed nine new supporters and is close to meeting its target.
The NCTJ's chief executive, Joanne Butcher, commented: 'Thank you to all of the JDF backers, especially the steadfast support of the NLA which has donated more than £1.5 million, and all our supporters and friends. Thanks most of all to the brilliant JDF alumni, who have proved why the scheme is so important and what a difference it makes'.
Inverness-born Mike Edwards, who retired from frontline journalism in 2019 after a 40-year newspaper, radio and TV career, has been appointed as Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Dunbartonshire. He began his media career as a trainee reporter on The Inverness Courier
in 1986, and then switched to radio and worked for Radio Forth, Radio Tay and Moray Firth Radio before returning to newspapers as a sports writer for The Press and Journal
(P&J) in Inverness.
He subsequently moved to Switzerland and worked in Bern for the World Service of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation before joining Scottish Television's reporting team in 1993 – retiring in 2019 after 26 years with the station to become the main carer at home for his mother, Margaret, after she was diagnosed with dementia. She died in 2019, aged 91.
Edwards, who is now an author, charity trustee and British Army reserve officer, told me: 'My life and career were hardly altruistic and I was all about getting to work on the big stories, and getting my next book published, and working towards my next Army promotion. All that has changed, and I am now doing all I can to give something back. I have time and energy and want to help people who need it – rather than write stories about them. I was appointed Deputy Lord Lieutenant totally out of the blue and it is a huge honour'.
Scottish Daily Mail
, columnist Sarah Vine writes: 'The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, is right to say that working from home is no substitute for being in the office. Just as remote learning is not the same as being in school, Zoom is no substitute for the kind of creative energy that crackles when colleagues come together. The truth is, technology can help us survive a crisis; but it will never make us thrive the way we do when we work collaboratively in real life'.
I have the utmost admiration for how our newspapers continue to be put together so well despite most of their staffs working from home. Congratulations all round!