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BBC could kill Red Button services in bid to save £150 million

Matt Brian , @m4tt
11.18.15
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As the BBC continues to streamline its operations following a less than glowing government review, the broadcaster has announced a fresh round of cuts that it says will "address a shortfall" of £150 million in what it believes is lost money. It comes from what we know as the "iPlayer loophole," which lets viewers avoid paying the licence fee by watching on-demand programming only. While the Beeb works with the government to close it, the company says it will cut management positions and reduce back office staff, but also look into whether it could phase out important services like the Red Button.

The BBC says it will save a total of £37 million by "rationalising" new BBC Online features, streamlining BBC News and slowly reducing the amount of interactive TV it offers. The Red Button is the biggest service at risk, which has been used to deliver alternative match choices for Wimbledon and BBC Radio 5 Live commentaries on select live football matches in the past. Instead, the broadcaster says it would focus on delivering interactive content via iPlayer and apps on connected TVs and mobile devices.

TV production won't escape the cuts either. The BBC's sports rights budget will be slashed by £35 million to combat the "high levels of inflation in the market." With Sky and BT vying for the majority of live domestic and international sporting rights, prices have risen, so the BBC has decided to pick and choose its battles. Events like the Open Golf and Formula 1 have been lost, but the Beeb has retained Wimbledon, Premier League highlights, Euro 2016/2020 football and will share coverage of the Six Nations rugby with ITV.

By scrapping shows like The Voice, the BBC will shave a further £12 million from its TV budget. Dramas like Sherlock and Dr Who are protected, but it says a "range of other genres" including factual, comedy and entertainment shows will face cuts. "No Director-General wants to announce reduced spending on services that the public love," says BBC Director-General Tony Hall. "This is very tough, but the BBC's financial position means there is no alternative."

Today's cuts are a fraction of the £700 million overall savings the BBC must find by 2021/22. More than 1,000 people will lose their jobs in the process, with 300 of those posts already gone.

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