Harding: 75 BBC news jobs to go, compulsory redundancies possible, more cuts on the way

BBC head of news James Harding today announced that 75 more BBC journalism jobs are to go and warned that compulsory redundancies cannot be ruled out.

Forced redundancies at the BBC have previously been a red line for the National Union of Journalists and a trigger for strike action.

Former Times editor Harding also warned that more cuts are yet to come under the Delivering Quality First programme.

He explained in a letter to staff that the cuts were forced by the Government freezing the BBC licence fee for seven years in 2010 and also making it take responsibility for funding the World Service and other services.

Harding said the redundancies were part of changes aimed at shaving £11m from the 2014-15 BBC News budget. And he warned that further substantial savings will be needed over the following two years.

But he noted that BBC News is funded to the tune of £650m a year and employs 8,000 people.

He said: “I recognise that an announcement such as this adds to uncertainty after what has been a trying year.  I also appreciate the concern that cost savings come at a time that so many people are working hard to make the most of new technologies and striving to deliver the best journalism in the world.   

"The reality is that we have to live within the terms of the licence fee settlement, requiring us to deliver more for less."

James Harding's letter to BBC news staff in full:

Dear All,

I am writing to let you know that today we are implementing the next phase of the cost-cutting programme for BBC News.  These are savings that we have previously announced as part of the Delivering Quality First (DQF) programme of annual spending reductions promised as a result of the 2010 licence fee settlement. 

These cost savings will result in the closure of up to 75 posts across BBC News and the English Regions.  This will, I know, mean that we will see colleagues that we respect leave the BBC.  We will all be extremely sorry to see them go. 

I also need to be clear that this is not the end of the process.   In 2010, against a backdrop of cuts across public services, pressure on household budgets and downsizing elsewhere in the media, the Government froze the licence fee until 2017.  In addition, the BBC assumed responsibility for the funding of other services, notably the World Service. 

In October 2011, the BBC announced plans for £700 million savings – or 20 per cent of the total budget – by 2016-17.  In News and the English Regions, we committed to find just over £60 million of annual savings – or 13 per cent of our budget – in the same period. 

In the first year – i.e. the current financial year – we will achieve £25 million of annual savings. The changes that we are implementing today are intended to hit our budget targets for the second year – 2014-15 – and will save a further £11 million. We will therefore need to find further substantial savings over the following two years.

Last year there were significant cuts to the BBC World Service.  The closure of 75 posts this year is spread across News and English Regions.  I am determined that, where we can, we will avoid compulsory redundancies, but we cannot guarantee that will always be possible. 

Department heads and relevant editors will brief people directly affected this afternoon. I will seek to attend as many departmental meetings as possible.  We will begin discussions with the unions next week.  And if there is anyone who would like to discuss this programme with me, I will hold an open meeting on the 7th Floor here in NBH from 5 to 5.30.  I am aware many of you will have been working or will be off shift and unable to go to your team briefings so we have put all the departmental documents outlining our proposals  on the News Group intranet site today.

These are demanding times for everyone working in news, both in the BBC and beyond.  UK licence fee payers provide us with £650 million to deliver the best service in news locally, nationally and internationally.  BBC News and Current Affairs employs more than 8,000 people and we do – and must – strive to deliver the best possible value for money. 

I recognize that an announcement such as this adds to uncertainty after what has been a trying year.  I also appreciate the concern that cost savings come at a time that so many people are working hard to make the most of new technologies and striving to deliver the best journalism in the world.   The reality is that we have to live within the terms of the licence fee settlement, requiring us to deliver more for less. 

I believe that BBC News provides outstanding value for money to licence fee payers. I also believe that the public measures the value of what we do not simply in financial terms, but in the quality of our work.  I hope you share my pride in what we put on screen and on air and, based on the quality of our output, my confidence that BBC News will continue to command the trust and respect of our audiences.  

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