When George Osbourne announced the budget on Wednesday, it was no great surprise that the term “pay freeze” was mentioned here and there. The two-year pay freeze for workers in the public sector mean that the broadcasters are going to find themselves under even greater scrutiny than they previously have been.
With the expenses fiasco at the BBC quietening, they now stroll into summer and Glastonbury, where in 2009 they were criticised for sending over 400 members of staff to the Somerset festival, almost as many as they flew out to film the 2008 Beijing Olympics. There were so many on the corporation’s payroll that it had to block book hotels within a 10-mile radius of the festival. The BBC sent just 32 more to cover the Olympics.
The Glastonbury festival – which has grown with the BBC into a glorious multi-platform thing – has small teams roaming the farm to report on all manner of cultural activities. The output dipping in-and-out of footie and tennis bouts across BBC Two, Three and Four, plus the red button and online.
Then there’s the recent ‘firm stance’ against their staff and the Christine Bleakley saga which has created numerous side stories in the press, “Should she stay or should she go…?” In the end it was decided that enough was enough and that the BBC would not continue their negotiations and so she’s off to…ITV of course! To rejoin her One Show laughter-buddy, Adrian Chiles, and recreate their paragon of sofa chemistry. And it only cost ITV and Peter Fincham (BBC1’s former controller) a mere £4 million. That’s roughly one-quarter of Frank Lampard.
One executive at ITV said, “”There was almost zero consultation with most staff. Even in meetings up to a week ago managers just told us Christine was the ‘elephant in the room’ and they wouldn’t be saying any more.”
Channel 4’s chief executive, David Abraham, is also creating a state of metamorphosis over at Horseferry Road with a 25% cut in senior management. The cull will cut a quarter of senior managers and calls for a “fundamental evolution” at the group. The new shape of C4 will see online commissioning and production combined with its TV equivalent to form a single division.
One industry expert said: “C4 needs to survive the downturn, and in the absence of a deal or the ability to buy its way out, it needs to focus on reorganisation and cutting costs.”
At least the broadcasters are moving with the times and echoing the chorus of the new sprity coalition government, but with industry jobs thin on the ground anyway, these recent cuts cause new and foreboding clouds that waver uncertainty over this already fragile industry.