"THE Beeb is a great institution, always to be defended against its enemies, which include itself,” Clive James wrote way back in 1977.

Right then, right now. In the years to come there will, no doubt, be books written about senior BBC’s management’s handling of the recent Gary Lineker Twitter storm. Or rather, mishandling, as the BBC’s Director General Tim Davie put his foot down and then had to lift it up again as soon as it became clear that Lineker had huge support within the corporation. A clear case of management trying to look decisive and ending up with egg on its face.

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One wonders if the ongoing row over the fate of the BBC Singers will also leave it mayonnaised. Earlier this month the Beeb announced that the choir, celebrating its 99th anniversary this year, will close, while its English orchestras – the BBC Symphony, Philharmonic and Concert orchestras – will face a 20 per cent cut in their salaried positions.

The reaction has been swift and horrified from all corners of the classical music world.

And the disgruntlement is spreading. Even Cabinet ministers at Westminster have backed the campaign to save the BBC Singers, which is ever so slightly ironic, of course, given that the reason that the BBC is making these cuts is partly as a result of the cuts the Tory government has been making on it.

In recent years Westminster has been hostile in both word and deed to the BBC. The Conservatives have repeatedly cut BBC funding since they came to power in 2010. Last year the then Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries froze the licence fee for two years, meaning the corporation is facing a real-terms reduction in its income.

We are seeing the results of that freeze in the merger of the BBC’s international and domestic news channels, with a new slimline BBC News channel to be launched next month, in the decimation/modernisation (can you guess which term the BBC PR machine went with?) of BBC local radio, in the cuts to the World Service, and, now, in this squeeze on the BBC’s orchestras and the closure of the BBC Singers.

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The truth is the BBC is not short of enemies, in government or in the press either. But let’s be honest, in the case of the BBC Singers, the corporation has not helped itself.

The way it announced the news as “bold, ambitious, good for the audiences who love classical music,” seems a miscalculation, at the very least. Less than a week after the announcement was made musical journalist Norman Lebrecht published a letter written to the BBC chairman Richard Sharp (whom you may know from his sideline in arranging loans for spendthrift Prime Ministers) by the co-directors of the choir raising “serious questions about the conduct of your senior management team.” They also suggested that the messaging around the closure has been “shambolic” and even went so far as suggesting there is now a “toxic culture at the BBC”.

Clearly they are not disinterested observers, but these are views that seem widespread amongst the UK’s classical community. “What has happened to our beloved BBC?” Julian Lloyd Webber wrote in this week’s Radio Times.

And writing in the Guardian last week, Paul Hughes, former director of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Singers, said, “I no longer know if the BBC is a public services broadcaster; I don’t recognise it any more, or its values.”

There will be some who argue that this is a storm in a teacup, that classical music is an elitist art form that most licence fee payers have no interest in. But this misunderstands the position the BBC occupy in the broadcasting ecology. Because the corporation constantly needs to find a balance between popularity and public service. Put crudely, to justify the continuation of the licence fee, it needs both Strictly Come Dancing and Radio 3.

Which is why its decision on the BBC Singers seems so damaging. Because what should be clear from both the Lineker affair and the reaction of the classical world to the latest cuts is that the corporation is in danger of alienating those who are most likely to support it. Which is a bold strategy certainly, but maybe not wise.