Veteran Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman has told Press Gazette that he has ‘no idea’whether his job is safe from the compulsory redundancies at the programme being rushed through by the BBC.
The programme’s correspondents are said to be outraged at the speed at which the cuts are being pushed through and by the corporation’s refusal to relocate some of its most high-profile staff to other jobs within the BBC.
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When asked for his views on the proposed job cuts, Paxman said: ‘I think it is all absolutely unnecessary. I have no idea if my job is safe.’Last week Newsnight reporters met with the programme’s editor Peter Barron to discuss the cuts, which require that two correspondents be slashed within the next two weeks.
The news came after the BBC’s initial proposals for voluntary redundancy were unsuccessful. Staff were reportedly informed that they had to reapply for their own jobs by letters which arrived a week late and with £1 postage still to be paid.
The 15 correspondents have since written to Barron saying that they will boycott the process of selection, will not fill out draft CVs as requested and are refusing to attend any further meeting about the selection process.
An insider at the programme said: ‘The score card process, which sees staff graded from one to six on our various strengths, is farcical. The whole exercise is just a fig leaf – they already know who we are and how we work.
‘The plans are being forced through at such a fast pace that many of us see this as a test-case for the rest of the BBC, especially as the corporation will be working with a lower than expected licence-fee settlement.’Newsnight’s NUJ representative, business correspondent Paul Mason told Press Gazette: ‘For the BBC to say that they can’t find anywhere else inside the corporation for people on the list, seems to us to reflect perverse priorities in a year when some half a million pounds in bonuses was paid to BBC management.’According to Mason, it would take only an extra £150,000 – or more simply the use of redeployment – to solve the problem.
‘We are still hoping that this can be sorted out by BBC management coming to its senses and finding jobs for those people Newsnight no longer wants on it staff. This is how the BBC always operates and we would have thought that it would particularly want to do this given that we are talking about high-profile correspondents on a high-profile programme.’Negotiations have progressed from the point before Christmas where staff were said to be resisting the idea of redeployment within the BBC. Now correspondents say that they are willing to move to other programmes.
Mason said: ‘Our only quibble is with the compulsory nature of the redundancies they are proposing.’There is a ‘self-imposed’deadline by the BBC that the cuts must be made within the next two weeks and Mason said that there was no objective decision as to why the redundancies had to be made within that timescale.
The NUJ has called a national-level meeting for 30 January to discuss the cuts.