'We'll fight axe'

By Caitlin Pike and Hamish Mackay

Unions have pledged to fight the BBC cuts which will see more than
400 journalists’ jobs axed and were meeting this week to prepare a
joint response.

They say their members are “outraged” at the second round of BBC job
cuts which, as well as costing over 400 jobs at BBC News, will see 735
posts lost from BBC Nations and Regions; 176 of which will also go from
BBC Scotland.

In total 2,050 jobs will disappear across the
programme-making departments – far more than had been anticipated. The
NUJ and BECTU described the cuts as “ripping out the heart of BBC
programme making”.

BBC director general Mark Thompson announced
the cuts on Tuesday live on BBC internal tv. Afterwards staff were
briefed by their managers on how each department would be affected.

Of the 420 jobs to go at BBC News, 100 are from news gathering, 86 from tv news, 75 from radio news and 44 in news interactive.

The
remaining jobs being cut are spread across other news departments. It
is not yet clear how many of the redundancies will be compulsory.

Other
casualties within BBC News are believed to be the consumer affairs unit
and the West Africa Bureau. A correspondent’s post in the Washington
and Berlin bureaux is expected to go, as well as a reporter’s post in
the Jerusalem bureau. The world features unit is also likely to fold.

Some
flagship programmes such as the 6 o clock and 10 o clock news, as well
as Newsnight and Radio 4’s Today programme are understood to have been
assured they will be protected from the cuts.

In other programme
making departments, 424 jobs will go from Factual and Learning and 66
from BBC Sport. Hundreds more jobs will also be lost in TV, Radio and
Music, New Media and Drama, Entertainment and Children’s programmes.

NUJ
broadcasting representative Paul McLaughlin said: “People are outraged
and angry and we are going to take the view of our membership and
oppose these plans in their entirety. They are ill-thought out,
unworkable and strike at the very heart of the BBC.”

A BBC insider said staff were “very upset and very angered” by the announcement.

Some had been told they would not know before the summer if their jobs would be affected.

He added: “The atmosphere of speculation is terrible.”

Speaking
of the £355m savings that will come from the cuts by 2008, Thompson
said: “This is all money we plan to spend on programmes and content;
both to improve the services we deliver right now, and to build strong
BBC services in the future.” He added that £45m will be reinvested in
BBC News. The money is to be spent on ‘landmark new projects’ and
current affairs and original journalism on BBC One. A new editor for
the Middle East, who will be based in London, and a Europe editor, who
will be based in Brussels, will also be appointed.

At BBC
Scotland, the proposed 176 job losses represents 13.5 per cent of the
programme and production staff, and will include 62 posts in
television, 36 in news and current affairs, and 28 in radio.

Peter Murray, deputy FOC of the NUJ’s BBC Scotland branch in Glasgow, described the announcement as “absolutely devastating”

and insisted they would fight to keep their members’ jobs.

He
said: “We are going to fight tooth and nail to preserve every one of
these jobs because we don’t think this is what the public wants.”

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear made a direct challenge to BBC chairman Michael Grade over the cuts on Tuesday.

Dear
said: “You have allowed the axe to be wielded before thinking about the
consequences – and the most frightening is that you are putting in
jeopardy the future of the BBC and its reputation for quality”.

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