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Staff on BBC's flagship Panorama say cuts have dealt the programme a 'terminal blow'

© Mark Thomas

19 January 2018

Staff on Panorama, the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme, believe the programme has been dealt a terminal blow after its new editor announced plans to make half of the programme’s experienced producers redundant.

Rachel Jupp has told staff she wants to reduce the numbers of full-time producers working on the programme from the existing seven to four – a producer left in October and his post was quietly closed. It is part of the £600,000 savings Panorama plans to make in 2018/19.

Despite being Panorama’s most experienced film makers, those now facing redundancy have been told they no longer have the skills required to work on her programme.

The team has made some of Panorama’s hardest-hitting investigations and have won numerous awards, including last year’s BAFTA for the best current affairs programme.

The cuts were announced as part of a wider reduction in programme-making staff across the BBC’s Current Affairs department, where two more producers’ jobs are also to go. The department made the recent films on North Korea and Silicon Valley.

Panorama’s programmes are already suffering as management attempt to claw back some of the catastrophic overspends they have presided over during the past two years. Nonetheless there are no plans to reduce the number of management roles on the strand. The proposals would leave Panorama with the same number of office-based executives as programme making staff producers.

Production times have been shortened and there is an increasing reliance on assistant producers and researchers “self-shooting’’ material for the prime-time BBC1 show. Panorama’s staff are also concerned that, on occasion, the programme’s working practices are becoming unsafe. Five years ago an internal health and safety review of Panorama’s quick reaction programmes concluded that a long hours' culture was putting people’s safety at risk. It recommended more people be recruited to work on them. The latest proposals mean fewer people will be given the task of getting these programmes on air.

The move to get rid of staff producers comes two years after Panorama’s dedicated reporters were axed and many of the programmes have been carried out by independent companies, which could be seen to be more risk adverse.  

Panorama first aired in 1953 and is the world’s longest running investigative TV programmes.

The decisions about Panorama’s future were announced before Fran Unsworth, the BBC’s new director of news and current affairs, was appointed.  It is unclear whether she has signed them all off. She is yet to meet Panorama’s staff to explain how the programme will continue to fulfil its remit for producing hard-hitting current affairs investigations whilst also reacting quickly to world events with such a significant reduction in experienced staff.

Sue Harris, NUJ national broadcasting organiser, said:

"The BBC's reputation and its remit as a public service broadcaster depend on flagship current affairs programmes such as Panorama and it is deeply worrying that staff say the latest cuts will all but kill off the programme and put their health and safety at risk."

Tags: , bbc, panorama, broadcasting, cuts, current affairs, health and safety, Rachel Jupp, Fran Unsworth, bbc1, investigative journalism