Cut the transmission

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
April 08, 2011, 10:53 PM GMT+0

Sports programmes, property and antiques shows, along with chat shows, entertainment programmes and overnight transmission, would all be acceptable areas in which funding could be cut on the BBC, according to the majority of the British public. Documentaries, drama, comedy and current affairs, in contrast, should not bear the brunt of the squeeze over the coming five years in which the BBC license fee will be frozen and resulting cuts made.

Brits seem to be the most amenable to a shakeup in the transmission of sports programmes.

  • 70% think sharing Wimbledon coverage with other channels would be acceptable in a bid to cut costs, while 22% disagreed
  • 68% feel that no longer bidding for the rights to Formula One Motor Racing would be fine, while 22% don’t agree
  • 62% would be happy if the BBC no longer bid for the rights to Premier League football highlights, but 30% say this would be unacceptable

Nearly two thirds (64%) of the population also find spending less on chat shows and similar entertainment to be acceptable (compared to 26% who don’t), and an even higher 74% think spending less on daytime property and antiques programmes would be acceptable.

‘Don’t cut drama, news or comedy’

However, for every other type of programme we listed in our survey, the public is either split over, or a majority emphatically against, cuts and smaller budgets.

  • Especially unpopular were proposed cuts to documentaries (74% thought cuts to these would be unacceptable), drama (71%), news and current affairs programmes (68%), comedy shows (61%) and children’s television (57%)
  • 55% also feel that it would be unacceptable for the BBC to buy more foreign programmes (compared to 30% who think it would be fine), and the public is split over whether BBC 2 should show more repeats of BBC 1 shows (42% agree, 42% disagree)

Burning the midnight oil

Overnight transmission was also an area where cuts were seen to be largely acceptable.

  • 77% think that showing repeats, Open University or Learning Zone programmes during the hours of midnight and 6am would be acceptable (13% don’t)
  • While 73% feel that renting out overnight transmission capacity to other broadcasters, such as local TV, would be fine (17% disagree)

Frozen fee

The BBC is currently funded almost entirely through the license fee, a compulsory levy on anyone who watches television, by any method, in their home or business, in the UK. It currently stands at £145.50 per year, and is set to be frozen for the next five years, which, in real terms, will mean the BBC will have to make significant spending cuts to the tune of 16%. It will also take over the cost of the World Service and Welsh channel S4C. BBC director general Mark Thompson called the cuts ‘realistic’, and despite criticism from the National Union of Journalists over the potential hit to company morale, said that the BBC’s ‘focus remains providing distinctive, high quality programmes valued by the public’.