All we need from Beeb is one radio station and one telly channel

Cuts ... are so many channels a waste of money?

BBC chairman Lord Patten has hinted BBC3 or BBC4 could be axed as the corporation’s budget is cut by 20 per cent.

But the BBC is FULL of waste Рat YOUR expense.  Yesterday we heard how Radio 1 pay 52 people to make two 15-minute news bulletins a day.

Here Sir Antony Jay, co-author of Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister, says BBC cuts should go much deeper.

CHRIS PATTEN has said he wants to cut the BBC’s budget by 20 per cent.

But why stop there? Indeed, why should we have to pay to watch television at all?

In particular, why do we have to pay the BBC even if we never watch any of its programmes, risking a fine if we don’t and prison if we still refuse to pay up?

Why don’t BBC viewers simply pay a voluntary subscription, as the Americans do with their public broadcasting station? Heaven knows, there are enough free channels available and plenty of premium channels.

There are three good arguments for the broadcasting licence fee:

It funds home-grown programming, which stops the airwaves being flooded with cheaper American material.

It stimulates exports of British programmes.

There is some force in these arguments but they are not arguments for the great mass of programmes that the BBC transmits.

Why should every British viewer pay for movies, bought-in shows (often American), sports events and variety acts that they could see on commercial channels if the BBC hadn’t outbid them?Why should they support five orchestras and a choir, a publishing house and a website, which doesn’t count as broadcasting at all?

And yesterday we learned the BBC employs 52 people to produce two 15-minute news bulletins on Radio 1. Is this really necessary?

In addition to programmes the BBC buys in, there is a great swathe of undistinguished ones no better than a mass of shows already available on other channels – quizzes, chat shows, cookery, gardening, makeovers and endless repeats which can be cheaply bought on DVD.

The licence fee is not only hard to justify, it is becoming harder and harder to sustain.

Through the iPlayer you can already watch the best of the BBC’s programmes on your PC without even turning on a television. How do you collect a licence fee from someone with no television set?

All we really need from the BBC is one speech radio station and one TV channel.

The really distinguished BBC programming would fit comfortably into four hours a night, with News 24 covering the daytime hours. This could be done on a half, or even a third, of the BBC’s current ¬£4billion-a-year budget.

But of course this can only be temporary. Technology will see to that.

In a few years – assuming the Government do not finance the BBC through taxation and make it, in effect, a government department – it will, if it plays its cards right, be a distinguished subscription channel.

In this format, the BBC would be supplemented by sales from its huge library, to take us out of the 20th century and into the 21st.