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Labour asks UK government to intervene in BBC music cuts row

Following an announcement by the BBC of a 20% cut to salaried orchestral posts in England and scrapping of the broadcaster’s in-house chamber choir, the BBC Singers, the Labour Party has urged the government to call on the BBC to reconsider the cuts, described as ‘devasting and damaging’. 

Barbara Keeley, Shadow culture minister, said in the House of Commons that ‘the cost-of-living crisis appears to have caused the BBC to announce that some of the finest musicians in the world will lose their jobs’, adding that the Corporation’s plans have been described as ‘cultural vandalism’.

Leading conductors have criticised the broadcaster’s ‘irreversible, catastrophically damaging plans’. In a letter to the BBC’s director general, Tim Davie, and other senior managers, conductors including Sakari Oramo, Dalia Stasevska, and Semyon Bychkov express their ‘disbelief’ at Tuesday’s announcement of the cuts. 

The BBC Singers, the UK’s only full-time choir, has been in existence since 1924, working with eminent musicians including Igor Stravinsky and Pierre Boulez, and performing at the funeral of Princess Diana. The choir is renowned for its flexibility and skill in tackling the most challenging new music. Its disbandment has been met with shock and dismay, with more than 40,000 signatures gathered on an online petition calling on the BBC to reconsider its plans.

The Musicians’ Union, which represents more than 30,000 members working across the sector, said it was in ‘urgent talks’ with the broadcaster.

In an announcement on Tuesday 7 March, Charlotte Moore, the BBC’s chief content officer, said: ‘This new strategy is bold, ambitious, and good for the sector and for audiences who love classical music.’ 

Moore also included a commitment to ‘doubling funding for music education and launching new training initiatives, providing more opportunities for people to engage with classical music, building audiences and creating extraordinary experiences’. MUSIC:ED has contacted the BBC for further details.