UK Music Calls For “Urgent Rethink” Of Devastating Cuts To BBC Orchestras And BBC Singers In Major Review Of Classical Music

UK Music, the collective voice of the UK music industry, has called on the BBC for an “urgent rethink” of the Corporation’s plans for major cuts to its world famous orchestras.

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08.03.2023: UK Music, the collective voice of the UK music industry, has called on the BBC for an “urgent rethink” of the Corporation’s plans for major cuts to its world famous orchestras. 

Under plans announced on March 6, the BBC is proposing cuts of 20% to the salaried posts of its three English Orchestras – BBC Symphony, BBC Concert and the Manchester-based Philharmonic.  The BBC Singers – Britain’s only full-time professional chamber choir –  would also be disbanded.

The proposals triggered anger and shock across the classical world and the music industry. The move comes amid wider fears about cutbacks in music and music education that could cause irreparable damage to the talent pipeline on which the industry relies.

UK Music Chief Executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin called on the BBC to reconsider the cuts which the Corporation claims will create “flexible, agile ensembles that can work creatively” and allow more broadcasts from different parts of the UK.

Jamie Njoku-Goodwin said: “We are deeply concerned about these damaging proposals to cut the BBC Singers and reduce the BBC orchestras – and the impact it will have on all those affected.

“The breadth and diversity of the BBC’s music output and its support for musicians, singers, songwriters and composers is admired across the world. It helps support the UK’s global status as a cultural superpower. However, these cuts threaten that reputation and will have a devastating impact on the classical music ecosystem.

“We cannot understand the rationale behind these plans – particularly given they would come at such a high artistic cost. The BBC ensembles are a crucial part of this country’s cultural fabric.

“These proposals would have a devastating impact not just on the musicians themselves, but also on the wider ecosystem that relies on these ensembles. The BBC must urgently rethink these proposals.

“We are also concerned that this is part of a wider trend at the BBC, to scale back music at exactly the time we should be looking to invest to create jobs and continue selling British music across the world.

“Furthermore, this news reinforces just how important it is that we support our orchestras and generate as much activity as we can. It is another reason why it is essential the Government uses the Budget next week to extend Orchestra Tax Relief. This is not the time to be increasing the tax burden on orchestras – we should be stimulating activity, not disincentivising it through higher taxes.”

UK Music and its members are calling on the Government to extend the 50% uplifted Orchestra Tax Relief that began in October 2021in response to the pandemic.  At present, it is due to reduce to 35% in April 2023 and be cut further to 25% in April 2024.  However, UK Music is calling on the Chancellor to extend the current 50% rate to stimulate activity.

UPDATE: In his March 15 Budget, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt heeded the calls from UK Music and its members and announced that tax reliefs for orchestras, theatres, museums and galleries would continue for a further two years. He said: “Because our theatres, orchestras and museums do such a brilliant job at attracting tourists to London and the UK, I will extended for another two years their current 45% and 50% reliefs.”

Media coverage of Jamie’s comments included:

Record of the Day