BBC Music staff quit as fury grows over Bristol move

BBC Music: staff cuts were planned

Staff on BBC Music magazine have quit en masse in protest at the BBC’s decision to move the title to Bristol.

The controversial plan to put BBC Music, Wildlife and History magazines under the control of newly acquired Origin Publishing has caused anger and concern for their long-term survival.

It has led to several redundancies and high-profile departures including Rosamund Kidman Cox, who edited BBC WildlifeMagazine for 23 years.

Staff on BBC Music magazine decided to take a stand after hearing the editorial team would be cut by half. Sources said they had also been given conflicting messages – they were told by Origin that there would be no change to the title, but BBC management had indicated it could change completely within a year.

There was further anger when the BBC rejected staff proposals to set up a smaller office on the outskirts of London.

Acting editor Harriet Smith told Press Gazette: “We weren’t convinced by the possibility of making it work so far from London. They wanted to cut the team and we have such a strong team here we didn’t want to work with people who lacked the experience.

Most people went to Bristol to look at things before deciding, so it was a measured decision.”

Classical music critic and assistant editor of the Evening Standard Norman Lebrecht branded the move “preposterous” and claimed the West of England was a blackspot for classical music, with no resident orchestra. “It is a preposterous and ridiculous move which is possibly preparatory to closing it down,” he said. “It is a commercially driven move which is held in deep disfavour by music producers within the BBC.”

Staff are likely to have to produce at least two more issues before BBC Music magazine is transferred to Bristol. Smith said the team was “amazingly professional and dedicated”, but added: “It is difficult to maintain the same level of enthusiasm we had for it before.”

A BBC spokesman said: “It would be nonsense to go and acquire a specialist arm if our only intention was to close the magazine down. It is quite the opposite. The intention of the acquisition was to allow us to invest in our titles in the future and we don’t believe that moving them to Bristol will stop us from doing that.”

Meanwhile, Sophie Stafford has been appointed editor of BBC Wildlife Magazine. She was previously a section editor on the title.

By Ruth Addicott

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