The BBC is the single biggest employer of MU members in the UK and is in the unique position of supporting five full-time orchestras. The BBC orchestras alone employ more than 400 contract musicians and many hundreds more on a freelance basis. The BBC also employs and supports musicians and other performers working in all genres through its radio and television programming. The BBC is also an essential source of voice work, including through radio dramas, to many performers and audio artists. Providing vital income to highly-trained but precarious workers who are too often struggling to maintain a living from the industry.
The freezing of the licence fee and the reduction in BBC income over the past ten years has led to proposals to make job cuts in the BBC Singers, the BBC Orchestras and BBC Introducing as well as local news and programmes. It has also put salaried jobs at risk.
One of the most important elements of universality for the BBC is the fact that it ensures that arts and culture are available to everyone. It is essential that the BBC continues to be able to provide this access to a wide range of culture that the market may not provide for and which may not be viable on purely commercial terms.
This Congress notes a general election is expected in 2024.
Congress believes that accurate reporting and access to reliable information is vital for voters to make informed decisions. Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) plays a crucial role in providing unbiased news reports, scrutinising political parties’ claims, and holding politicians to account.
Congress notes there has been a proliferation of dis-and misinformation in recent years, including on social media, which has impacted voters’ views and judgement.
Congress further notes a YouGov survey (May 2023) which found that PSB broadcasters have the highest net trust ratings of all media outlets, including BBC, Channel 4 and ITV. Of these, the organisation that the largest number of people trust is the BBC.
BBC local radio reaches audiences other media do not. Yet, BBC management want to cut local output across 39 local stations by up to 50%, cutting journalists’ jobs and drastically reducing coverage of local issues. This will adversely impact listeners, including many elderly, disabled and digitally disadvantaged people.
Congress condemns cuts to BBC Local and calls for the corporation to rethink its plans to make output less local, especially given the upcoming general election.
Congress instructs the General Council to:
- Support the BBC licence fee model and lobby for adequate funding for the BBC in order to secure its future and sustainable jobs for those who work for it.
- Lobby for the Media Bill to be used as an opportunity to strengthen PSB in every respect, including ringfencing funding for local output;
- Campaign for professional journalism and impartial reporting to be at the heart of PSB, with the public’s right to know enshrined for future generations.
Mover: Musicians’ union