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BBC puts orchestra cuts on hold

Classical programming is heading North

The BBC’s plan to cut orchestra jobs by around 20% have been paused as it “explores alternatives.”

Last month Simon Webb, BBC’s Head of Orchestras and Choirs revealed that it would be closing the BBC Singers Choir and reducing salaried posts in its English Orchestras – the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Concert Orchestra and Philharmonic.

At the time Webb stated that this would be through voluntary redundancies, as they moved to focus on employing freelancers.

Since then, the BBC Singers have received a stay of execution, with a number of organisations coming forward to offer alternative funding.

Now, the BBC has said it is also pausing the orchestra cuts, while it works with the Musicians’ Union.

The BBC stated:

“These alternatives will look to create sustainability for our Performing Groups and to deliver the recommendations of the 2022 Classical Review – which are outlined below:

We will collaborate more with partners across the UK

We will invest more in education

We will do more to open up the classical sector as a place to work

We will innovate to bring classical music to new audiences

“In exploring alternative proposals, we will also invite independent experts from across the sector to work with us and the Musicians’ Union.

“In parallel, we remain committed to consulting the Musicians’ Union and other BBC unions on progress regarding the alternative models being proposed for the BBC Singers.”

The news was welcomed by MU General Secretary Naomi Pohl who said:

“Over the past two weeks, we have had more positive discussions with the BBC and we believe they have listened to the concerns of the Union, our members and the wider industry.

“While we appreciate the financial challenges faced by the broadcaster in the current climate, we have always been fierce advocates for their unique role in the sector and we will approach this consultation with a focus on building on what they do rather than paring it down.

“There are many issues to discuss but our objective will be to protect jobs and look initially at income generation and greater use of the Performing Groups within the BBC itself. We will consult and involve our members throughout the process.”

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