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BBC cuts deeper into sport, content

The BBC will cut £35m (US$53m) from its sports budget and £12m from TV content, in addition to 1,000 job cuts announced earlier this year, as it attempts to close a £150m shortfall in licence fee income.

BBC chief Tony Hall

BBC chief Tony Hall

The UK pubcaster says more people using BBC iPlayer, mobiles and online catch-up services, rather than having a TV and an associated license, has caused the funding shortfall.

The government has vowed to close the loophole but in the meantime, extensive cuts are being made by the corporation to balance the books. In July it announced 1,000 job cuts as part of a plan to create a “simpler, leaner BBC” and save £50m.

Of that, £25m will come from reducing back office and support services, £10m from reducing management in content divisions and the remainder from the merger of technology and digital teams.

In addition, £35m is now being cut from the sports rights budget. The British Open Golf was lost to Sky Sports earlier this year and rugby Six Nations rights have been shared with ITV but other existing rights and events are also now on the block.

The BBC will, however, maintain its coverage of Wimbledon tennis, Premier League football highlights via Match of the Day, and football’s European Championships and World Cup.

A further £12m is being cut from its TV programme budget although drama will be protected. Factual, comedy and entertainment all face cuts, while last week it was announced that BBC1 had lost The Voice to commercial rival ITV after pulling out of a potential bidding war for the Talpa format.

Talpa Media format The Voice

Talpa Media format The Voice

BBC Online will also lose £12m from its budget and £5m will be cut from news.

A statement from the corporation today said: “We have welcomed the government’s firm commitment to close this loophole and will continue to urge ministers to legislate as swiftly as possible.

“Even after today’s measures, the BBC faces a long-term challenge to identify a further £550m of savings by 2021/22 and we will set out broad plans for this in the spring. We will inevitably have to either close or reduce some services.”

That follows the decision made by the government earlier this year to place the burden of paying for free TV licenses for pensioners onto the BBC.

BBC chief Tony Hall added: “The BBC has and is doing everything possible to make sure the impact on the public is minimised. Wherever possible we’re targeting savings by creating a simpler, leaner BBC.

“But cuts to budgets for programmes and services are unavoidable. No Director-General wants to announce reduced spending on services that the public love. This is very tough, but the BBC’s financial position means there is no alternative.”

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