My News Now and other stories 

25 March 2005

Pete Clifton on cuts at BBC News

One of the things that eight years of Labour government has brought us (besides war, lies and broken promises) is a long break from the word “cuts”.

For those of us who lived through – or worse, grew up during – the Thatcher and Major years, the word “cuts” was heard every day. Cuts in NHS funding. Cuts in hospital beds. Cuts in police numbers. Cuts in the number of jobs. Cuts in railway subsidy. Cuts in everything that would save a few pounds so we could all get an extra penny in our pound just before an election.

Labour, to give them their due, have reversed this. It’s all now “investment”. Wherever you once heard Howard, Clarke, Major et al saying “cuts in…”, you can now hear Blair, Clarke (no relation), Brown et al saying “investment in…”.

So it comes as a rude shock when the word “cuts” starts coming back into the headlines.

Fortunately, it’s not in health, education or social security this time; but it is government-led and it is in something we all use everyday.

Welcome to the world of BBC cuts.

These are to be across the Corporation, will result in job losses and therefore fewer people working much harder, and are to be followed by privitisation of several services. Just like the old days of Conservative government, then.

What’s most interesting is the bizarre logic to these cuts – again, just like the bad old days of Tory government. In order to “focus” on something, the budget is to be reduced. The Tories “focused” on the NHS, by slashing its budget repeatedly. This was to improve it. No, honestly.

The BBC has “focused” on BBCi and BBC News, by… slashing its budget. This will improve it.

Yeah, right.

The 12 skilled jobs lost from BBC News Online won’t improve BBC News Online. They won’t improve the economy. They won’t improve our lives. In fact, they’ll destroy the lives of 12 people and make the BBC that little bit worse. Just like the Tories and the country, then. (Remember, what Tory ministers do to their secretaries, they also do to the country).

One “New Labour” thing noticable to these Tory-style cuts is the spin put upon it. You see, these aren’t just cuts, cuts, cuts. No. These are targetted re-investment in something with a nice, if vapid, slogan attached.

So, once all the blood-letting is done, we’ll have BBC My News Now. What a lovely slogan! And so pretty and meaningless. Or pretty meaningless, anyway.

What My News Now is, no one really seems to know. It looks like being a new initiative where you can get instant, tailored news content from the BBC on a number of platforms. Cool!

I wonder how My News Now will differ from the BBCi news multiscreen on digital platforms, the Ceefax service, the WAP 101 headlines, Five Live, local radio, local news web pages etc etc that the BBC already provide?

One answer is obvious: it’ll be exactly what we have now, only with less money and a shiny new slogan.

My P45 Now, anyone?

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