The BBC is planning to move ahead with a significant redundancy scheme in its news division after putting the savings plan on hold at the height of the coronavirus crisis.
The British broadcaster announced in January that it would cut 450 jobs in its newsroom, but the measures were then paused in March. The so-called “modernisation plan” is now being revisited, but the number of roles at risk has swelled to 520 as the corporation aims to find new Covid-related savings.
The BBC needs to save £125M ($158M), on top of previously identified cuts of £800M, by March 2022 as a result of its income being impacted by the pandemic in recent months. The news division is contributing more than £80M to this savings target.
The big change the BBC wants to make to its newsroom structure is pooling resources so journalists serve different programs and platforms, including TV, radio and online. The BBC said earlier this year that this is part of an effort to “reduce duplication” and boost digital output.
Today, the BBC said it would have fewer reporters, while correspondents will be asked to work across a range of content, rather than being owned by specific shows, such as Newsnight. The BBC added that, as a result of new ways of working during the pandemic, it will use fewer studios and will make “significant reductions to our operations staff.”
Specific shows will also be axed or scaled back. This includes The Andrew Neil Show, hosted by the corporation’s forensic political interrogator Andrew Neil, which will not return after launching last year.
BBC News and current affairs director Fran Unsworth said: “Covid-19 has changed all of our lives. We are still covering the most challenging story of our lifetimes. During this crisis audiences have turned to BBC News in their millions and I’m incredibly proud of what we, as a team, have been able to achieve.
“But if we don’t make changes, we won’t be sustainable. This crisis has led us to re-evaluate exactly how we operate as an organisation. And our operation has been underpinned by the principles we set out earlier this year – fewer stories, more targeted and with more impact. We’re aiming to reach everyone, every day. For BBC News to thrive, and for us to continue to serve all our audiences, we have to change.”
Paul Siegert, the National Union Of Journalists’ national broadcasting organizer, said: “All through Covid-19 the BBC has shown its worth time and time again with staff going the extra mile to keep services on air. Now the reward for many of those hard working journalists will be the threat of redundancy.”
Separately to the news cuts, the BBC announced earlier this month that it will make 450 people redundant across its workforce in the English regions. It is also axing 150 roles across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It means the BBC has announced a total of 1,120 job cuts this year, which is around 6% of its total license fee-funded workforce of 19,231.