'It will be a testing time of uncertainty and change': James Harding announces 415 job cuts from BBC News

The BBC is to axe 415 jobs in its news division as part of its Delivering Quality First savings scheme.

BBC News reported today that it currently employs around 8,400 people, including 5,000 journalists.

The cuts, which affect 500 people because of job sharing, have been announced by James Harding, director of news and current affairs, who said the move is part of £800m efficiency savings. 

According to the BBC, Harding has also set out plans to “substantially restructure” the news division. He told staff: "It will be a testing time of uncertainty and change."

He said that 195 new positions will be created as part of his plan. This means a net reduction of 220 full-time jobs across the division over the next two years.

Some 105 news jobs will be lost in the World Service division, with 71 posts creating making a net loss of 34 posts, 79 newsroom posts are to go, 56 newsgathering roles, five jobs from programmes and two from political programming.

Harding gave details of the cuts to a staff meeting in London, saying: 

Taking nearly £50 million out of a well-run organisation that provides high quality news services that are trusted, relied upon and used by millions of people is an extremely difficult undertaking. The challenge is how to make BBC News even better, despite having less money.

“We are living through a period of extraordinary change in news media. BBC News led the way first in radio, then in television and then online. Now, digital technologies offer us the opportunity to lead a fourth revolution in news. So, as well as setting out our savings plan this morning, we are also announcing proposals to restructure news and target investments in our future – in the digital transformation of BBC News, in our own original and distinctive journalism, in making this a better place to work.

“The BBC is one of the very best things about this country. It is trusted, needed and loved by the vast majority of people – and all they ask is that we keep on making it better. Delivering ever better value for money is part of that. Investing in getting and telling stories – in original, distinctive journalism – is part of that. And reorienting ourselves to lead the world of news into a digital future is part of that too. But it’s only a part: the most important part, what will win it for us, is what we put on screen, on air and online – the news.”

According to the National Union of Journalists, the cuts will impact programmes including Newsnight and Panorama and are expected to save the BBC £48m a year.

Sanchia Berg, a reporter on the Today programme, tweeted during the meeting that there would no longer be any staff reporter positions on Panorama.

The BBC News division has previously had cuts of 140 jobs in 2012/2013 and 75 more last year.

The announcement comes ahead of a planned 12-hour strike for BBC journalists next Wednesday, on the opening day of the Commonwealth Games.

Harding gave staff details of the cuts as well as changes such as combining production teams for some BBC programmes.

It is believed there will be around 79 job losses in the newsroom, saving £11 million, and 53 jobs cut in newsgathering, saving £6 million.

Five jobs will go from programmes, helping to save £3 million, while 105 jobs will go from the World Service.

Office closures will save £1.5m, and two posts will go from political programmes.

Around £4m will be invested in "digital transformation", and £38m in "original and distinctive" journalism – the BBC has revealed.

As part of the plans announced today, the BBC’s Newsroom and Programmes Department will be “reorganised into three operations” – 24/7 News, Daily News Programmes and Current Affairs.

The plans will also include a “reshaped Newsgathering operation, involving smaller and more agile reporting teams”.

The corporation has said that the World Service’s budget will increase from £245m this year to £250m in 2016/17 and that the English Regions division will “change priorities to fund the development of Local Live, a short update service for regional websites”.

The savings programme is also designed to find £12m to “invest in digital platforms in the UK and in enhancing original journalism”.

The BBC said: “We are investing £8 million to strengthen our original journalism through creating additional specialist editors and correspondent roles, and appointing local political reporters and city correspondents. Some of this investment has already started.

“We intend to invest £4 million in social and mobile news, data journalism, online analysis and an enhanced News Labs team.

“In World Service we will invest £13 million in digital journalism and the development of further language TV services, over the next three years.”

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: "These cuts will further undermine the ability of journalists to deliver quality content – it’s really that simple. The way in which the BBC wants to carry out the redundancies is the latest move from a management whose approach to recruitment is to grab a coffee with their pals and find them a berth without so much as an interview, doling out jobs with salaries that are way in excess of the normal rates.

"Now they plan to get rid of hundreds of staff – using licence fee payers’ money to cover the redundancy pay-outs – and then immediately hire in a load more. You couldn’t make it up. The NUJ has put in a huge effort, alongside our sister unions, to ensure that the BBC redeployment system works fairly and efficiently, and that licence fee payers’ money isn’t wasted on needless redundancies.

"Today’s announcement makes it clear that the BBC wants to unpick this work. NUJ members won’t allow them to get away with it, and we will fight to ensure that there are no compulsory redundancies at the BBC and that public money isn’t frittered away by senior executives keen to impose their preferred form of cultural change at the corporation."

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