Outliers

After the pensions forum on Monday I had a quick chat with both Lucy Adams and Mark Thompson. Lucy was perplexed that nobody seemed to believe that the pensions crisis was as serious as it appears to senior management. I reiterated that very little information has been supplied and instead it feels like we’re being sold a story. I particularly pointed out that it didn’t help to be told that lots of other pension funds are in crisis, and they’re all closing their final salary schemes. That tells us nothing about the health of our own scheme and appears instead to be aimed at creating a sense of inevitability about the need for change. Lucy saw it more as an attempt to explain that all final salary schemes are buckling under the same pressures.
Talking to Mark I said that it seemed to many of us that the changes to the pension scheme are part of a political negotiation with the government. I suggested that he was keen to ensure that the BBC was not an outlier in terms of generous pension provision in 2012, when the licence fee comes up for renewal. He said he wouldn’t deny that being an outlier was an issue.
So I’m left wondering about the extent to which at the very least the timetable for changing the scheme is being driven by a political imperative to avoid causing offence to the government. I certainly don’t feel like having decades of pension contributions devalued in what I suspect will be a failed attempt to persuade the government to go easy on the next licence fee settlement.

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