The BBC has today announced plans to save £48m a year across its news operations, by 2016/17.
This will see around 415 roles going and a restructure of the department, with a focus on digital and original journalism.
The job cuts will be offset by around 195 new roles “created through reinvestment”. These will include local political reporters and city correspondents.
It is part of the wide-ranging Delivery Quality First programme, which came into force following the licence fee settlement, meaning the BBC had to reduce its budget by 26%.
“We are living through a period of extraordinary change in news media. BBC News led the way first in radio, then in television and then online. Now, digital technologies offer us the opportunity to lead a fourth revolution in news. So, as well as setting out our savings plan this morning, we are also announcing proposals to restructure news and target investments in our future – in the digital transformation of BBC News, in our own original and distinctive journalism, in making this a better place to work,” explained James Harding, director, news and current affairs.
“The BBC is one of the very best things about this country. It is trusted, needed and loved by the vast majority of people – and all they ask is that we keep on making it better. Delivering ever better value for money is part of that. Investing in getting and telling stories – in original, distinctive journalism – is part of that. And reorienting ourselves to lead the world of news into a digital future is part of that too. But it’s only a part: the most important part, what will win it for us, is what we put on screen, on air and online – the news.”
The impact is likely to be mostly felt nationally, although changes will also be seen at a local level.
The newsroom will be restructured to create a new “24/7 digital news operation.” This will provide live, digital news across all devices. The network news operation will be integrated with the World Service and local and regional newsrooms.
Across all newsrooms there will be more shared production teams. While the newsgathering operation will involve “smaller and more agile reporting teams.”
It stated that the bulk of savings within the English regions had already been achieved, but “these proposals change priorities to fund the development of Local Live, a short update service for regional websites.”
The main savings will come about through production changes to Panorama, Newsnight and Newsbeat as well as a reduction in the current affairs budget for TV and a closer working between current affairs and Radio 4 news programmes.
Amongst the cuts was an announcement of an £8m investment in original journalism, by creating more specialist editors and correspondent roles as well as appointing local political reporters and city correspondents.
£4m will be spent on social and mobile news, data journalism, online analysis and a News Labs team.
Bectu has since announced that it plans to appose any compulsory redundancies:
“Amongst many concerns is the indication that the BBC only intends to fill the new roles after the redundancies have taken effect which would prevent current staff from being redeployed into new roles, effectively forcing them to take redundancy,” said BECTU’s assistant general secretary, Luke Crawley.
“The decision to postpone filling the new jobs until after the redundancies have taken effect looks like a cynical attempt to ensure that the BBC can bring in as many new people as possible. This approach completely undermines any meaningful attempt at redeployment and is contrary to the agreements we have on this issue.”
The redundancies are expected to take effect from March next year and Crawley warned that industrial action could follow:
“The BBC has also said that whilst asking for volunteers they may not accept all who may come forward. If any refusals result in the BBC then looking for compulsory redundancies we will be opposing this and if necessary will ballot our members for industrial action.”