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Museums Escape the Worst in Spending Review, will Only Face a 15 Percent Funding Cut
Planned extensions to the Tate Gallery and British Museum (above) in London were also safe.

LONDON (REUTERS).- Museums breathed a sigh of relief after escaping the worst of the government spending cuts announced on Wednesday, but reductions in funding for other sectors of the arts were significantly higher.

Chancellor George Osborne said museums would face a 15 percent funding cut over the next four years, and, crucially to the sector, free admission to museums and galleries would be preserved.

Planned extensions to the Tate Gallery and British Museum in London were also safe.

"The outcome of the Spending Review for national museums is better than we had feared and we would like to thank ... Osborne for acknowledging that museums are a front line service for millions of people," Tate said in a statement.

"We particularly welcome the announcement that free admission to national museums will continue."

Michael Dixon, chairman of the National Museum Directors' Conference, also recognized that the long-awaited announcement was better than some had feared, but added that a 15 percent cut would still require tough decisions.

He also underlined the need for increased private funding for the arts, calling on the government to create conditions that would "encourage philanthropy."

Cuts to the Arts Council, which supports a range of arts projects from theater to carnivals, will be a far higher 29.6 percent by 2014/15 when its grant in aid will be reduced to 349.4 million pounds.

"Cuts to Arts Council funding will have a significant impact on the cultural life of this country," said the council's chief executive Alan Davey.

Michael Oglesby, chairman of property company Bruntwood which supports cultural projects, said the world of arts in Britain would have to work hard to find other sources of funding in the wake of the cuts.

"Today's cuts in public funding to the arts are disappointing but probably inevitable in the light of the current financial crisis," he said.

"Art over the centuries has existed because of patronage -- corporate patrons are now more important than ever for securing the future of the arts in the UK."

The total budget for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will fall to 1.1 billion pounds by 2014/15 from 1.4 billion, and 19 public bodies will be abolished or reformed. The government has already announced the UK Film Council would go.

Osborne also confirmed that the BBC's television license fee would be frozen until 2016/17 and that the corporation would take responsibility for funding the World Service, BBC Monitoring and Welsh language channel S4C.

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Steve Addison)

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