The BBC is scrapping the print edition of its weekly in-house magazine Ariel after 75 years as part of a restructure that will see the loss of 30 jobs in its communications division.
Four jobs will be axed in the Ariel team as it looks to make 25 per cent savings, with the last print edition being published at the end of December.
Ariel Online, which underwent a redesign earlier this year, will continue to carry BBC staff news and views.
Candida Watson, who has edited Ariel for the last two years, said that compared with other cuts announced across the BBC as part of its Delivering Quality First Initiative the paper’s closure ‘pales into insignificance”.
‘That doesn’t make it any less of a shock to the long-serving staff who produce Ariel, to our regular correspondents who make the letters page a thing of occasional joy and frequent conversation, or to those of you who like to pick up the paper and read it quietly in a break, or take it to read on the journey home,’she said.
‘And how will certain tabloids fill their diary columns now?”
Watson continued: ‘As editor of Ariel for just over two years I am sad to be presiding over the end of the most recognised form of a BBC institution, and sad that the post I hold is also closing.
‘But as the BBC prunes back frontline staff and output it is hard to argue that it should devote licence fee income to publishing an internal newspaper, particularly when it has an intranet on which Ariel has an established presence, and when the news in the newspaper has already been reported on that site.”
Watson acknowledged that Ariel Online is different to the print edition and that some will see the move as a ‘none-too-subtle way of diminishing internal criticism of BBC management”.
‘It is true that the current Ariel online site has no comment facility on stories, but that is something we are working to address,” she said. “We still have a letters ‘page’ and readers can still comment on any issue that they want to raise, and in the online only Ariel you won’t have to wait a week to see your letter printed.”
BBC director-general Mark Thompson said Ariel had been an important part of the BBC’s history over the past 75 years and said he would be “sad” to see it close.
He added: ‘However I am pleased that it will live on online, reflecting the lives, issues and challenges that we face every day.”
Earlier this month BBC News director Helen Boaden outlined plans to reduce its budget by 16 per cent over the next five years, resulting in the loss of more than 650 jobs in news.
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