It was the BBC that inspired much of the imagery of George Orwell’s 1984, and true to type Delivering Quality First (DQF) is the Orwellian slogan given to the BBC’s current proposals for 20 per cent cuts over the next six years
The BBC Trust is conducting a public consultation on the plans that is open until Wednesday 21 December 2011. The Writers’ Guild will be submitting its own response, and we urge as many individual members as possible to do the same.
There are many points among the DQF proposals that will alarm both writers who work for the BBC and the general viewing and listening public. These include:
- BBC2 is promised more drama, but this is entirely at the expense of BBC4 – as BBC2 commissions are more expensive, does this mask a further decline in original TV drama?
- There will be significant cuts in radio commissioning – comedy on R2 and R5 Live, new material for R4 Extra – and although Radio 4 has its budget preserved, there is no guarantee that drama cuts are at an end – compare the recent slashing of short stories in favour of yet more news.
- Another 2,000 job cuts – on top of 7,000 already gone since 2004 – will further weaken the BBC’s ability to produce top-quality in-house drama.
- Despite many informal promises, there is no mention of drama repeats replacing the axed daytime shows on BBC2.
- After spending millions expanding to Salford and shifting productions to Bristol and Cardiff, the BBC is now planning to move a range of programming out of Birmingham. What kind of game is being played here?
The fundamental problem is the unnecessary freeze in the licence fee until 2017. It has gone up only £10 since 2007 and now costs just over £12 a month for the whole range of BBC services – compared to more than £60 for some subscription services.
In our motion at the TUC conference in September the Writers’ Guild called on the Government to unfreeze the licence fee – a call that is now being echoed loudly by many campaigners.
The entertainment unions – Equity, Musicians, BECTU and NUJ – have launched a postcard campaign, 'I Love Our BBC' aimed at deluging BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten with messages calling for a licence fee review. You can download the card (pdf) or contact the Guild office for supplies. A copy will be enclosed with your next copy of UK Writer, but we urge you to act now, as the mailing may not arrive until after the 21 December deadline.
You can access the full DQF document by clicking on this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/assets/files/pdf/review_report_research/dqf/dqf.pdf. The final 3 pages of the 55 page document allow for your response. You can also do this by writing to:BBC Trust, 180 Great Portland Street, London W1W 5QZ
You can make a detailed response to the consultation at http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/consult/delivering_quality_first.shtml.
Entries are now open for the prestigious Climate Week Awards, recognising the most inspirational and impressive actions taking place in every sector. In 2011 the judging panel contained figures such as the eminent economist Lord Stern, the former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, and Booker Prize-winning author, Ian McEwan. One of the awards is for the best artistic response to climate change this could be visual arts, dramatic arts or a piece of creative writing.
The judges will premise works that are inspirational, innovative and impact on their audience’s understandings and perceptions of climate change. The subject matter of the written work in question must relate to climate change and has to have been published in the last two years.
Entries should be described in no more than 700 words and should address the following specific headlines. Please ensure your entry is accompanied by supporting material illustrating your work.
- Inspiration: briefly describe how the work came about
- Execution: describe how the work has been produced
- Response: where has the work been exhibited and how has it been received?
- Contribution: how does the work contribute to understanding or action on climate change?
A statement from the Writers' Guild of Great Britain
The Writers’ Guild (which pioneered pension rights for TV and film writers) supports the public workers in their fight to protect their pensions.
Guild member John Donnelly took the Guild banner to the teachers’ picket line at Central School of Speech & Drama, north London.
Writers’ Guild Scottish rep Julie Ann Thomason set the cat among the pigeons at the Edinburgh AGM of the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society on 24 November 2011.
When questions were invited from the audience, Julie asked about the salaries at ALCS, which receives money for photocopying and overseas cable TV and distributes it to UK writers.
The information given was that Chief Executive Owen Atkinson earns £192,000 a year and the chair, Dr Penny Grubb, receives £45,000 to £50,000 in salary or expenses. The total staff employed number 37 with an annual salary bill of £1.7 million – an average of £46,000 per employee.
Other areas discussed included ALCS’s efforts to obtain payments from Brazil, Russia, India and China, and the activities of Google and dominant internet service providers.
The guest speaker was award-winning Scottish author Theresa Breslin, a former librarian who has been leading the campaign to save Scottish libraries – she described her experience from first visiting a library at the age of four to the trials of getting published and making a living as a writer.
The AGM also agreed constitutional changes relating to the appointment of directors and digital sources of funds, and ended with wine and canapés.
Fin Kennedy on Parliamentary lobbying and the English Baccalaureate
The following article first appeared on my own blog over at www.finkennedy.blogspot.com. I’m pleased to have been asked to reproduce it here. The piece came about as a result of my own musings after having attended on behalf of the Guild a reception for MPs and Ministers, hosted by the Performers' Alliance Parliamentary Group, at the House of Commons on 9 November. Many other Guild members will have attended too, and some of you may be regulars at these events, but it was my first time. My involvement unexpectedly turned into a bit of a personal crusade and letter-writing campaign! Read on to find out why.
Those of you who follow me on Twitter (@finkennedy) may recall that I recently sought my followers advice for questions they would like me to ask MPs and Ministers when I attended the Performers' Alliance Parliamentary Group reception at the House of Commons earlier this month.
The Performers' Parliamentary Alliance is a lobbying group jointly set up and run by Equity, The Musicians' Union and The Writers' Guild. I recently rejoined the Guild after a bit of a gap and was promptly recruited to the Theatre Committee, and hence also this event, on their behalf. Ostensibly it was to promote the Lost Arts website, launched by David Edgar a few months ago, but once you’re there you can nobble any of the MPs about whatever you like. The Guild forwarded me an interesting document in advance of the event, which contained various issues of concern. One in particular featured a note from the artistic director of a young people’s theatre company, which stated:
'The most alarming thing that is happening is the current government's moving from a point of view that access to the arts for young people is an entitlement and a right, towards it being considered a privilege and a reward for good behaviour … If this change in attitude is not addressed schools will just not programme in Young People's Theatre, or other art forms for that matter. The companies who survive this drop in audiences - and the numbers are very high for schools performances - will be thrown back on doing truncated Shakespeare and adapted set texts. All the new writing will go and the original play for young audiences will disappear … Aside from the affect on young people and the theatre companies who work to produce relevant and challenging theatre for them [which also incidentally supports the curriculum in many areas], there will be a significant loss of new writing commissions for writers, currently estimated at 30 original new plays per annum … the choice of subjects to be contained in the English Baccalaureate underlines this change in attitude.'
Like me, you may have heard about the English Baccalaureate but not really know what it is. Well, you’ve come to the right place. I did some further research, particularly among my schools contacts who are really upset about it. And rightly so, because it turns out the EBacc is really quite underhand and devious.