BBC News staff are set to strike after being warned of job cuts in the region of ‘some hundreds”, as the corporation makes plans for newsroom integration across all platforms.
There is speculation within BBC News that this could mean between 500 and 600 redundancies.
A source within the BBC told Press Gazette that the mood within the newsroom was in favour of strike action, should the plans be implemented.
Newsroom integration proposals are part of the cost-cutting exercise being mooted across all BBC departments, and are subject to the BBC Trust’s approval.
The trust, which met the BBC director general, Mark Thompson, last week to discuss the cuts, is expected to report its findings in October.
The cuts will be most heavily felt in the production units of news, with strand and assistant editors most vulnerable. The BBC is said to be keen to avoid cutting its foreign bureaux and global correspondents at the expense of the newsroom.
The integrated newsroom proposals, if they go through, will see a reorganised news operation with News 24, the One, Six and Ten O’Clock News bulletins, radio and online grouped into a ‘super newsroom’headed up by television news editor Peter Horrocks.
A smaller group of news discussion programmes including Newsnight, Question Time and the Today programme is expected to operate under the control of the current head of radio news, Stephen Mitchell.
Staff have been briefed by Horrocks, who is spearheading the project. The plans are to be implemented by April next year, should the BBC Trust agree to the cost-cutting proposals.
In practice, integration could mean the same editor for both the Six and Ten O’Clock News, with all bulletins plus News 24 operating out of the same studio. Currently, News 24 broadcasts from a separate floor.
Content will be used across the programmes throughout the day, instead of different platforms working to create their own report on a story.
A BBC source told Press Gazette there was a concern that news programmes would take the brunt of the cuts in order to save bureaux and correspondents: ‘People do see the need for it. But TV news programmes will be taking a big hit in the cuts and there is a feeling of imbalance.”
The move has increased concern about editorial quality, at a time when it is under the spotlight, the source said.
‘There are more worries about mistakes at a time when the BBC is concerned with safeguarding against mistakes. But mistakes are more likely if there are fewer people.”