July 5, 2010 3:19 pm

BBC 6Music wins reprieve from axe

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BBC 6Music has won a reprieve from the BBC Trust, after the broadcaster’s governing body said it had failed to make a case for the radio station’s closure.

The trust received tens of thousands of expressions of support from the public for the specialist music station since March’s BBC-wide strategic review proposed axing it.

Any plans to close 6 Music will only be considered after the BBC executive creates a “wider digital radio strategy”, which the trust’s chairman, Sir Michael Lyons, said was difficult given the “lack of clarity” on when the analogue radio signal will be switched off.

But the BBC Asian Network, also slated for closure last year, looks set to be incorporated into the BBC’s other radio stations.

In its initial responses to the BBC’s strategic review, the trust also said that it supported its plans to reduce its online budget by 25 per cent and to focus on more “distinctive” TV programming.

“The corporation is moving in the right direction on reach, quality, impact and value,” said Sir Michael Lyons, chairman of the BBC Trust, as the BBC published its annual report and accounts. He said that the current TV portfolio did not need “radical surgery” until certain “tipping points” – including the digital TV switchover in 2012 and an increase in online video-on-demand usage to half of total viewing – are reached.

The BBC’s annual report revealed that pay to its top on-air talent fell by £7.7m, or 3.3 per cent, to £221.5m in the year ending March 31, while executive director remuneration increased by 3.7 per cent to £4.77m. The BBC has pledged to reveal the pay “bands” for its biggest stars after criticism of the sums received by some of its highest-paid presenters, including people such as Jonathan Ross, Graham Norton and Fiona Bruce.

Mark Thompson, the BBC’s director general, said the executive pay figures for last year did not fully reflect the pay freezes and bonus cuts introduced last October.

“We’ve made tangible progress . . . We expect BBC director pay to come down absolutely in line with executive pay as a whole,” he said, adding that remuneration would be 20 to 25 per cent lower for executive directors by 2013 in real terms.

BBC Worldwide saw a huge increase in profits before interest, taxation and one-off items, up 37 per cent to £145m, with revenues up 7 per cent to £1.07bn. Both figures set records for the BBC’s commercial arm at the same time as rival broadcasters such as ITV suffered drastic falls in advertising revenue.

As a result of its financial performance, BBC Worldwide’s staff pay went up by 17.1 per cent. Its dividend payments to the BBC rose 7.6 per cent to £73.6m.

That helped to offset lower-than-expected licence-fee revenues, due to fewer new households being built last year. The licence fee generated £3.58bn, 2.4 per cent higher than last year, with the BBC’s total income up 2.8 per cent to £4.79bn.

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