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BBC cuts should target lavish management budgets, not journalists

Last week we learned that 574 BBC managers, all of them also in receipt of lavish salaries, are having private healthcare funded out of our licence fees.

Then we learned that, perhaps to help ensure this (deeply scandalous) arrangement continues and they never have to join the licence-paying public in an NHS ward, those same managers are to sack a man who has done far more than any of them to enhance the BBC's reputation and standing ("'Voice of the Highlands' to be axed in BBC cuts drive", The Herald, November 24).

At 62, Iain MacDonald is just one year older than the BBC's new director general, Tony Hall. He is six years younger than the BBC Trust's chairman, Lord Patten. He costs us a lot less than either of these gentlemen. But on Friday, by way of a phone call, Inverness-based Mr MacDonald, an outstanding reporter and broadcaster who has been giving a voice to the Highlands and Islands for 34 years, was told his services are no longer wanted.

Its managerial healthcare arrangements are costing the BBC £2 million a year. But rather than look for savings in that direction, Ken MacQuarrie, director of BBC Scotland, prefers – at a point when Scotland more than ever needs newsgathering talent of the Iain MacDonald sort – to target journalists.

Mr MacDonald has given half a lifetime to public service broadcasting. He has earned the trust and respect of the thousands of people with whom he has dealt in the Highlands and Islands. He has expertly put through the wringer all those of us who have held public office in the region. And now, well in advance of his preferred retirement date, he is told that he is to be axed.

Does Ken MacQuarrie think this is how to get the best from his increasingly demoralised staff? It is much to be hoped that Scottish ministers and MSPs make it their business to put that question directly to him.

When they are about it, they might put the same question to Bill Matthews who represents Scotland on the BBC Trust and who, according to the trust's website, is there – somewhat ironically in view of Iain MacDonald's treatment – "to bring the benefits of his management expertise" to the organisation he helps govern.

James Hunter,

19 Mansefield Park,

Kirkhill, Inverness.

I am appalled by the news that Iain MacDonald is to be sacked by the BBC.

As one of the most experienced broadcasters in Scotland he is consistently professional while utilising his vast knowledge of the issues and people of the Highlands. This background knowledge is vital when discussing issues as complex, fraught and deeply entrenched as reform of the Crown Estate or land ownership.

At a time when the BBC needs to re-establish trust with the British people, it must start by expanding the use of its most important asset – experienced journalists such as Iain MacDonald.

Michael Foxley,

Past Leader of Highland Council,

2 Achaphubuil,

By Fort William.

Contextual targeting label: 
Business

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