BBC Worldwide cutbacks trigger staff job loss fears

 

Staff at BBC Worldwide, the corporation’s commercial arm, face £20m cut- backs so that more money can be invested into frontline programme making.

Although the BBC said it had ruled out a possible sale of the division this week, staff fear the new cost-cutting target may lead to job losses. A spokesperson for the BBC said there could be a "handful" of redundancies across the whole business, which produces titles such as Eve, Radio Times and Top of the Pops, but stressed any job losses would be kept to a minimum.

The cuts are more likely to affect re-negotiation of contracts major purchases and printing costs. It is unknown whether they will have an impact on covermounts, which have provided a major boost to some titles.

The BBC is hoping to save £20m over the next two to three years – £12m in the first financial year.

The cuts were announced as part of a review of Worldwide’s activities and coincide with a shake-up of senior management after Worldwide underwent restructuring to separate the magazines from books and videos.

Recent changes include the return of former Worldwide managing director Peter Phippen from the US as the new managing director of magazines. Nicholas Brett, former editor and acting editor of Radio Times, has become his deputy.

Worldwide UK managing director Peter Teague has become managing director of consumer products. Stuart Snaith, former publishing director of the sports, motoring and entertainment group, has become director of videos and DVDs.

Seamus Geoghegan, publishing director of the lifestyle group, has been given a new role in charge of international magazine acquisitions but is expected to leave the company shortly. Ashley Munday, Radio Times publisher, has become publishing director and Chris Gadsby is the new publishing director of the factual and motoring magazines.  Although the BBC has renewed its support for Worldwide’s expansion plans, it said some parts of the business could benefit from new partnerships or external shareholders.

It recommended that business dealings between Worldwide and the BBC should be streamlined to cut costs and to speed up processes.

A commercial board, chaired by director general Greg Dyke and reporting to the BBC’s main executive committee, is to be set up to increase the focus on commercial activity. There were calls for better clarification of commercial policy guidelines to give Worldwide more freedom to develop projects which have no direct links with BBC output.

In a statement, Dyke said: "BBC Worldwide is responsible for a whole range of content rights issues. Selling Worldwide could mean the BBC losing control of its prime assets – its brands and its programmes – to a third party which would not be in the interests of licence payers."

By Ruth Addicott

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