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Critics Lash Out at BBC Children's Cuts

Prominent members of the U.K. children's sector have criticized the recently announced staff and budget cuts at BBC Children's, calling the decisions "disappointing" and "a betrayal," C21 MEDIA reports. The reductions, which include the loss of 88 jobs and the equivalent of a US$201 million cut in programming budgets by 2012/13, will likely have repercussions throughout the industry.

"The BBC is not just saving money with in-house efficiencies and job cuts, it is also going to take money out of the program budget," said Mike Watts, MD of Novel Entertainment and head of the children's and animation policy group at Pact, the U.K. trade association that represents and promotes the commercial interests of independent feature film, television, animation and interactive media companies. He added that the budget cut would translate to about a 10% reduction in original programming over the next five years.

"That's another cut beyond what Ofcom reported in its review just weeks ago. How very disappointing it is to see even further cuts at the BBC when we have this crisis already going on."

Jocelyn Hay, chair of Voice of the Listener and Viewer (VLV), a group that represents consumers and works for quality and diversity in British broadcasting, was even more scathing in her appraisal, calling the cuts "draconian" and "a betrayal of the public service ethos" to which the BBC is suppposed to be committed.

However, a BBC spokesman claimed that the savings would not come directly out of the children's programming budget, but would be effected by "efficiencies," such as seeking coproduction opportunities.

The issue will be discussed at the VLV's 13th annual conference on children's media on Nov. 7. Attendees will include BBC Children's controller Richard Deverell, Five director of children's Nick Wilson, S4C director of commissioning Rhian Gibson, and representatives from Ofcom (the independent regulator and competition authority for the communication industries in the U.K.) and Pact.