BBC to cut 450 jobs across England
Michelle Stanistreet said the cuts will have an impact on the BBC’s ability to sustain the breadth and depth of news coverage throughout England which truly reflects the diversity of the nation.
The BBC's plans to cut 450 jobs across England by the end of March could have a serious impact on its ability to represent all parts of the country and produce high-quality local news and investigative journalism.
It represents a 15 per cent cut across the board in TV, radio and online and is in addition to 150 jobs cuts announced last week for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The corporation said its service in England had to contribute towards the £800m savings earmarked during this licence fee period and the £125m deficit caused by Covid-19.
This will mean savings of £25m will have to be made in England by 2022, with the BBC proposing that:
- 142 jobs will go in online and TV news.
- 139 jobs will go in local radio and the BBC will continue with the cut-down schedule caused by Covid-19, reducing daytime output from four shows a day to three.
- 29 jobs will go from the award-winning current affairs Inside Out programmes and the 11 programmes will be replaced by a new current affairs strand produced from six regional hubs in Newcastle, Yorkshire Norwich, Birmingham, London and Bristol.
- 7 job cuts in the London-based wire service.
- 125 further voluntary redundancies will be sought.
The union welcomed confirmation that Sunday Politics shows, which had been reduced from 11 to one country-wide programme during Covid-19, will return to back to its usual regional slots in autumn, or when safe for staff to return to their studios. The corporation showed it had listened to the union, MPs and the public who were outraged that their local shows appeared to be under threat. Two digital politics pilots, BrumCast and Yorkscast will be launched in September.
The award-winning current affairs series Inside Out has had a semi-reprieve. Staff were told to stop production of the autumn series while a review took place. This also generated wide-spread opposition, including a letter from more than 100 celebrities from journalism, the arts and science, asking the BBC to save it. While 29 jobs in current affairs are to go, a new current affairs strand will be produced in six regional hubs in Newcastle, Yorkshire Norwich, Birmingham, London and Bristol.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:
"These are huge cuts which will inevitably have an impact on the BBC's ability to sustain the breadth and depth of news coverage throughout England which truly reflects the diversity of the nation. We are consulting our members on how these plans will impact on the BBC's output and the extent to which it will increase workloads on already-stretched newsrooms.
"The NUJ welcomes the BBC's commitment to swiftly share vital data on equality impact and stress risk assessments. But we will be seeking greater clarity on how the additional 125 voluntary redundancies will be assessed, and looking for guarantees that a joined-up and robust redeployment process will be carried out. Any attempts to instigate compulsory redundancies will be robustly resisted by the NUJ.
"The financial challenges are clear – the solution requires public engagement and financial intervention from the government to ensure the BBC's survival as an institution prized and valued all over the world. The Covid-19 crisis has shown more than ever the need for an effective public service broadcaster and for trusted, quality journalism in an era of disinformation and fake news. We cannot allow the BBC to sleepwalk into a death by a thousand cuts, which will inevitably see people switch off because they aren't getting the service they want."
Paul Siegert, NUJ national broadcasting organiser, said:
"There will be relief that the union's campaign to save the Politics shows has paid off and that the journalism created by Inside Out has not been scrapped. But the hit to local radio – for staff and listeners – will be a major blow. Commercial radio has all but given up on providing any local news and radio has been a great mainstay for many communities during the crisis. Last time swingeing cuts were planned for local radio there was huge hue and cry.
"It's also unclear how 142 jobs can go from Regional TV and Online unless there's going to be a serious drop in quality and standards. The union will fight these cuts and ensure that any changes that take place are dealt with as fairly as possible."
Tony Hall, the outgoing BBC director general, agreed in a behind doors deal with the government for the corporation to take on the cost of the welfare benefit of free TV licences for the over-75s. It will now cover the fees of those on pension credit, at an annual cost of £250m.
Julian Knight MP, chair of the cross-party Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said:
"For the BBC to make the regions bear the brunt of 450 job cuts is devastating news. Just two weeks ago BBC executive James Purnell told us that the broadcaster was strongly committed to local and regional journalism. This decision is a strange way of demonstrating that commitment.
"It is also at odds with what he told us about plans for the BBC to do more outside London and the south-east on local and regional services with journalism and political programmes singled out.
"As a public service broadcaster the corporation has a clear mandate to serve audiences in our regions and meet their expectations for a licence-fee funded quality regional news service. Today's announcement appears to put that expectation in some doubt."
Last week the following cuts were also announced:
- Scotland needs to save £6.2million, of which £3.5-4million would come from staffing, the equivalent of around 60 posts.
- Wales has already delivered £6million of savings over the past 3 years, partly due to a move to new premises, but still needs to save another £4.5million; that's 60 posts in 2021/22.
- Northern Ireland needs to save £3.6million which will equate to between 30 and 40 post closures, fewer resources being spent on the 10.30pm bulletin and watered-down coverage of party conferences.
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