BBC cuts: up to 650 jobs in journalism could go

BBC News director Helen Boaden has outlined how the department plans to reduce its budget by 16 per cent within the next five years – cuts that could lead to the loss of more than 650 jobs in news.

The corporation has earmarked 800 posts for the axe split roughly equally between network news and English regions, but investment is likely to create up to 200 new posts.

The corporation estimates the final number of jobs lost in news will be between 550-650, though these will not necessarily all be journalists.

Last October’s licence fee settlement resulted in an initial savings target for news of 20 per cent by 2016, but through ‘testing, persuading and arguing’about the proposals this was later reduced to 16 per cent, or £69m.

Boaden claimed that if it meets savings targets then cash inducements for doing that could bring the budget cut to 13 per cent, or £56m.

She argued that the ‘cut from 20 per cent to potentially 13 per cent of our budget does demonstrate that the BBC is serious when it says that journalism is its top priority”.

Following last year’s settlement the journalism board which ran BBC journalism was disbanded, resulting in English Regions, Network News and the Global News division coming under a single ‘increasingly integrated’BBC News Group, led by Boaden.

In a speech to staff yesterday Boaden said it was this ‘One BBC News’policy that would be at the heart of how it plans to achieve its cost-cutting target.

She insisted: ‘The DQF [Delivery Quality First] Team working with a range of news people came up with an answer which is both wonderfully simple and hugely challenging: We need to harness all our resources as One BBC News.

‘It’s not just a clever bit of branding. It’s a real idea whose time has come.”

Boaden claimed that BBC News had ‘never managed to fully realise its potential’and there was still too much duplication.

“Do we have simple processes for sharing? Not really,’she said. ‘If we’re to achieve our savings target and maintain our quality we must now force the pace of change and build the idea of One BBC News into everything we do.

‘It has to become systematic in our planning, our commissioning and in the ways we share our content internally.

Here’s how BBC the hopes to achieve its savings target for news and where it is looking to make investments:

  • A reduction in senior management positions including a 20 per cent cut by December 2011 in BBC News and English Regions.
  • Breaking news will ‘still reign supreme’but there will be ‘fewer deployments, fewer specials, more repetition of the best items, more from the nations and regions and the removal of our dedicated business slots”.
  • Regional television: protect the 6.30pm slot which ‘remains the UK’s most popular television news bulletin’but end the regional summaries on Saturday lunchtime and at 3pm on weekdays along with the weekday national daytime summaries.
  • The BBC One regional current affairs series Inside Out will see staff reductions and budget cuts, though the BBC hopes to ring fence money for ‘investigations and the big stories like the economy”.
  • Funding for Panorama and current affairs programming on BBC One has been ring fenced.
  • Cutting nine hours a year of ad hoc current affairs series on BBC Two including travelogues and some social history.
  • Radio 4 will be closing Taking a Stand and Beyond Westminster and there will be fewer editions of some strands. Radio 5Live will decommission 5Live Investigates in its current form.
  • The Daily Politics will be relaunched six days a week including Sundays from January next year fronted by Andrew Neil. The Daily Politics will also be extended to an hour on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. The BBC is launching a new strand called Politics Europe, which will report from the European Parliament into the Daily Politics . This will be re-broadcast as a standalone programme on BBC Parliament, BBC World News and the News Channel. It will replace the BBC Parliament programme, the Record Europe.
  • Halve the spend on covering party conferences.
  • Reduce the number of dedicated programme reporters working for the Radio Four Sequences and Newsnight.
  • Cut back on the dedicated news service to Radio 1 Xtra and reduce costs by merging the Radio One and 1 Xtra teams.
  • Funding for the Asian Network news service will be “significantly” cut.
  • On Radio 5 Live the budget for news content on the station will be reduced by about 20 per cent and will focus on breaking news, core stories of the day and being the “home of national debate”. There will be a reduction in production staffing and in the number and spread of dedicated reporters. 5Live will also be expected to ‘work even more closely’with BBC Breakfast”.
  • Changing the terms and conditions of staff and reforming pay and grading structures over the next two years should result in around £10m worth of savings.
  • Over five years the corporation aims to create a ‘single integrated BBC newsgathering’service which will save £8m pounds per year.
  • Close its bureau in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
  • At its W1 base in London there are plans to : build an integrated newsdesk with UK and World newsgatherers sitting together; bring together all TV and radio studio operations staff into one department; bring together specialist roles in graphics, editing and multimedia.
  • From next spring all World Service News daily news staff will become part of the ‘One BBC Newsroom”.
  • £2m a year has been allocated for investment in the local radio political correspondent network.
  • £3m a year has been allocated to ensure the BBC has ‘the people and capability to create output appropriate for the various new devices and devices that are coming on to the market”.
  • £3m a year is being invested in its ‘Journalism Portal’to ensure that ‘sharing gets easier and simpler over the period”.
  • £500,000 will be invested in supporting investigative Journalism including Panorama and ad hoc investigations across radio and television.

Boaden told staff: ‘BBC News exists in all its manifestations to deliver not just the best journalism in the world – but the most trusted.

‘It seems to me that at a time when journalism is facing such serious accusations of bad faith and immoral practice, it’s more important than ever that BBC News maintains and if possible, grows the trust of its audiences.

‘We do that by delivering our mission, our purposes and by living our values both in our journalism and our journalistic behaviour.’

She added: ‘I believe that the trustworthiness of BBC News is the bedrock of our relationship with all our audiences and what distinguishes us in their minds from our competitors. And I’m delighted that our audience ratings for trust, impartiality and accuracy are higher now than they were four years ago.

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