What the BBC tells viewers who complain about classical cuts

What the BBC tells viewers who complain about classical cuts


norman lebrecht

March 19, 2023

Here’s the standard sod-off letter, replete with factual inaccuracies and grammatical errors.

Dear Audience Member

Thanks for contacting us.

We recognise that some English orchestras.

We recognise that some of our audience will be disappointed about the proposed closure to the BBC Singers and reduction of the salaried roles in the BBC’s orchestras.

These proposals formed part of our wider strategy for classical music, announced on the 7th March. That has a focus on modernising the orchestras, performing in more venues across the UK and doubling our investment in music education.

The BBC, as the biggest commissioner of music and one of the biggest employers of musicians in the country, has a vital part to play in the British classical landscape and always will. We consulted widely as part of the BBC’s classical review, which looked at the classical music sector and the BBC’s role within it, and set out the findings last year. We also confirmed we were looking to reduce licence fee funding for our Performing Groups. With a flat license fee, and high inflation, we have had to look at where we can save money.

Taking the very difficult decision to close the BBC Singers does mean we will be able to work with and feature a wider range of independent choirs, bringing more varied programming to our audiences, wherever they are in the UK. We will also establish a nationwide choral development programme which will be based at the new BBC Music Studios, in East London, from 2025. We have to evolve, ensuring the way we operate is sustainable and efficient. We believe these steps are the right ones to take to ensure the future success of our role in the sector.

We believe this new strategy will help us reach a wider audience for classical music. We will champion the distinctiveness of each of our five orchestras and be able to perform a wider range of music to a larger audience. Our improved education offer, which includes doubling our spend on musi education, aims to be available to every school-age child in the UK, cementing the bBC as one of the leading forces in music education and building a new audience for classical music.

We do value audience feedback. All complaints are sent to senior management and we’ve included your points in our overnight report. These reports are among the most widely read sources of feedback and ensures (sic) that your concerns have been seen by the right people.

Thanks again for getting in touch.

BBC Complaints Team


  • Ernest says:

    Just the wordiness of it is annoying.

  • Kenny says:


  • Morgan says:

    What a word salad of an apologia.

  • Christopher Clift says:

    Just a bunch of platitudes reeled off by some anonymous nonentity in the bowels of the BBC. As far as the ‘complaints team’ are concerned, far from being brought to the attention of senior management, the letters and howls of complaint will merely be filed in the nearest rubbish bin (or the bin on their computers). The BBC JUST DO NOT CARE about the future of Classical Music in the UK. They only want to appease the ‘woke’ establishment. Hence the appointment as head of music, someone who confesses herself that she has little or no time for the genre, and is only interested by pop music.

    • Paul Dawson says:

      I sincerely hope the Beeb are not employing anybody to turn out this garbage. ChatGPT will do the job at zero cost.

    • Ñame says:

      The establishment are woke? You mean the tories? Aren’t they the ones opposed to “wokeness”? Sounds like you’re using the BBC latest updates as a jumping off point for your personal frustrations, rather than getting your facts straight about why these cuts are here in the first place. It’s not very woke to make cuts to the arts in order to prop up DG salaries, nor is it very woke to put the employees out of work but create 6-figure high ranking positions out of thin air, without any reasoning as to why that would be a good business move. Keeping your rich friends rich is a thing “woke people” actively fight against. Next time put a bit of effort into your internet complaints, you’re outing yourself as someone who could care less about the hundreds of jobs which are about to be lost from these changes, and they extend far beyond just the orchestra positions.

      • Sean says:

        You said “nor is it very woke to put the employees out of work but create 6-figure high ranking positions out of thin air.” It is if those are diversity positions.

  • MMcGrath says:

    Patronizing, arrogant and without any idea of what a customer is. It’s why banks fail, brands decline and customer loyalty switches to – Radio France for internet classical radio. THERE ARE OPTIONS Beeb.

    • BBC Management says:

      We agree there are other options, which is why we felt it was incumbent upon us as stewards of taxpayer funds to take the difficult decision to make these cuts. Thank you for your support.

      • Richard Kiel says:

        Watch out for anyone who makes a “difficult decision” at your expense. Our politicians and employers have been making “difficult decisions” for decades to plunder the rest of us. Enough. Revolt.

  • tramonto says:

    The second sentence is already missing the entire predicate. This must be a joke, right?

  • Herbie G says:

    What a load of sanctimonious drivel.
    Lord Reith, the BBC’s first Director General, defined its purpose as to educate, inform and entertain, presumably in that order. In the last few decades, we have seen a reversal in the order of those objectives. Most of us who have been watching BBC TV programmes will have seen an inexorable drift from culture to vacuous ‘entertainment’. We on SD have been following the decline of Radio 3 for years. Each time it seemed that the dumbing down could not get any worse, it got worse. And worse. And worse.

    When I say ‘most of us’ above, I am referring to those who post on SD. It’s fairly safe to assume that we are lovers of music, particularly what is referred to as classical music – and lovers of culture in general; art, literature and drama. I think it’s also safe to assume that most of us are in a certain age group – that is to say, adults. What the BBC are doing is discriminating on the basis of age – they are pursuing a desperate but foolhardy bid to attract a younger audience by side-lining the older viewers and listeners. Someone ought to tell them that youngsters don’t generally listen to the wireless and don’t watch TV – they are enthralled by Facebook, Netflix, WhatsApp and TikTok. The USA was founded on the universal democratic principle of ‘no taxation without representation’ but a growing proportion of the public is paying the BBC licence fee while feeling increasingly estranged from its output and having no voice in determining what it provides.

    The BBC is an arrogant, dysfunctional quango that can do what it likes and do no wrong; it’s accountable solely to itself. The government cannot touch it as that would undermine its independence. Income is guaranteed from a licence fee that is compulsory for anyone owning a TV, whether or not they use it to watch or listen to any BBC programmes, despite the fact that there are thousands of other stations available, most of which are free.

    The positive side is that the BBC has a penchant for self-immolation. The Lineker debacle and the savage cuts to its orchestras and choirs are fuelling campaigns to have the licence fee abolished, which are sure to increase traction until some concrete measures are taken, rather than endless reports and enquiries. What is certainly needed is a huge cut in its complement of staff (more than 22,000) and a re-definition of its purpose. In common with the NHS and the Metropolitan Police, the BBC is not fit for purpose. Regardless of the merit of its output, Classic FM has only about 80 staff. On that basis they can run a 24-hour music station.
    The BBC’s campaign to offload orchestras and choirs is surely a prelude to axing Radio 3 by eroding its content and then declaring it obsolete.

  • Glynne Williams says:

    It’s the usual load of corporate tripe trotted out by large organisations who couldn’t care less about their customers (though I thoroughly object to being referred to as a customer of the BBC. I am a faithful listener). This letter shows that the powers that be did not anticipate the level of national and international protest about their crass decision.

  • Reality Sux says:

    Only in the non profit world should every organization be guaranteed permanent funding with annually increasing budgets, where supposedly what every non profit produces is of amazing world-class Quality, essential to society, never with any wasteful or profligate spending, while expecting no strings attached from whoever is funding – and in America, open hatred for the rich who fund the arts, while expecting them to fund what the haters want ad infinitum, no questions asked. You couldn’t make this stuff up.

  • George says:

    Please, let’s give it a rest with the singers. There are other choruses in Britain. Your country is built on choral singing, in fact. The local broadcaster doesn’t need to sponsor one in order to keep the tradition alive.

    • Chris says:

      You do not understand the unique role of the BBC Singers. They are a chamber choir, not a chorus. They are employed, not sponsored, so they can perform varied repertoire without commercial consideration. Because they sing together all the time they need little rehearsal and their sight reading is renowned.

  • gareth says:

    “Taking the very difficult decision to close the BBC Singers does mean we will be able to work with and feature a wider range of independent choirs” – Surely they could do this without also doing away with the BBC Singers. Weren’t they featuring other choirs anyway?

    PS: I’m pretty sure that “ensures” is being used correctly here.

  • Eleanor Selfridge-Field says:

    BBC performing groups used to stand for impeccable quality. Please explain how your blueprint for the future addresses that value.

    • Simon says:

      They can’t, so they won’t. At least, not in so few words. I feel another verbose, meaningless missive hitting my email email even as I type this.

  • Doc Martin says:

    I have been submitting complaints and criticism to the BBC over their classical music coverage on TV and Radio for decades, they always reply with the same old excuses. If they sacked some of their cash eating suits, they might have enough for a regular concert/opera on TV for folk living out in the sticks.

  • Nick2 says:

    Complaining to the BBC has always been a total waste of time. Just look at the individual sports pages on the BBC News website. Apart from the top wealthy sports like soccer, golf, tennis etc. all others are mostly not just out of date – they are massively out of date. As one who enjoys watching badminton, I have been appalled that there is usually zero coverage of not only the major international tournaments featuring nations from many countries, even the annual world championships are rarely given any coverage. ‘News’ is generally many weeks old and for over a year one ‘news’ item was more than 2 years old.

    The response to repeated complaints has always been that they do not have enough staff to update the page/s! This is total nonsense as updating the page/s would take just one person on a freelance basis about 30 minutes every 2 or 3 days! I have written asking therefore why the BBC bothers including hugely out of date pages in what is billed as a ‘news’ item. That has never received a response!

    The rubbish in the recent letter quoted in this thread is even worse – but just so typical. The BBC regards itself as above complaints. It does what it has decided to do and damn be those who have the temerity to think they know better!

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Bbbbbut they didn’t mention equity, diversity and inclusion!!

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    Anytime you see an entity being officially labeled, “Complaints Department”, you know you’re in for something that closely resembles a Monty Python episode.

  • Mary says:

    These missives from the BBC always sound as if they are written by the writing staff of W1A….

  • Unvaccinated says:

    And next on the BBC’s Crowd Pleasing channel, it’s the BBC Fifteen minute Proms, with presenter, Gary Lineker.

  • Selby musician says:

    How and where have they “set out” these findings? Why no link? Evidence??

    “We consulted widely as part of the BBC’s classical review, which looked at the classical music sector and the BBC’s role within it, and set out the findings last year.”

  • Sarah says:

    Everything will be bigger, better, more modern, more accessible…how on earth could it possibly be with all these cuts? What is the point of doubling spend on music education when there are now fewer jobs for any young person who wants to pursue a career in professional music?

  • Bored Muso says:

    What a load of patronising crap and adding insult to injury to those musicians about to be seriously effected with this BBC anti professional musicians mess>
    Simple: We just boycott the 2023 forthcoming BBC Proms season. Don’t buy tickets, don’t watch on TV and even consider refusing to pay the TV licence.
    Hit the buggers where it might should financially harm them.
    It’s all to do with money (and BBC management ignorance and mis-management) anyhow..

  • David says:

    It smacks of dishonesty. How does cutting spending on orchestra salaries allow them to play a wider variety of music? Unless they mean less Classical music and more pop and other genres with smaller ensembles. To a larger audience? How do those numbers work? Seems very dishonest. Eliminating the BBC Singers frees up money to spend on a wider variety of ensembles, eh? This can only mean lower cost – or no cost – ensembles. One might worry about a reduction in quality. It also suggests performing more music from other genres that don’t require the same forces. Where does inflation affect the orchestras apart from touring costs? The letter claims cutting spending on orchestras will allow them to double spending on education. With what? The same dumbed-down programming they’ve been pushing recently?

  • Jeffery Smith says:

    Controller of Music at the BBC used to be the highest of rolls. William Glock had studied with the greats in Vienna. He invited them to come to Britain to perform. Nowadays it seems those in charge of music cannot tell the difference between Gurrelieder, Les Illuminations and Pli Selon Pli, or even who composed these masterpieces. And it is the composer who decides who shall be in the orchestra, for example quadruple woodwind, not the cost contral department.