World Service FoC: Cuts are 'disgrace beyond disgrace'

A senior journalist at the BBC World Service has branded the cuts facing the organisation as ‘the most appalling, dreadful situation it has ever been in”.

Mike Workman, who is NUJ Father of Chapel for news and current affairs at the World Service, said plans to save £46m a year through a series of cuts to the service amounted to ‘a disgrace beyond disgrace”.

The BBC detailed its cuts earlier this week, saying it intended to cut a quarter (around 650) of the World Service’s 2,400 employees and close five of its language services.

Speaking exclusively to Press Gazette, Workman, who is also a senior World newsdesk journalist in London, said he expected his department of around 250 full-time and part-time staff to be reduced to around 200 initially, with around 27 going in the first year of cuts.

However cuts would be most keenly felt outside the UK, he said.

‘The Arabic service has a similar, perhaps an even higher level, of redundancies than we do in terms of the journalists but a lot more or the technical side, the operational staff will also go as well,’Workman said.

The BBC admitted this week that it expected its audience to drop immediately by around 30m as a result of its changes. Workman urged people ‘not to be taken in by the spin’that just five services would close as cuts would also drastically affect remaining services.

‘Some managers are already trying to introduce 19th century factory style working practices and so we’re going to have treadmill journalism and we’re not prepared to accept that,’he said.

The BBC is currently trying to shift its international audience to multimedia to prevent those abandoning its shortwave radio services from seeking news from alternative services based on emerging technology platforms.

While recognising the need for technological development, Workman said changes being were being made too really quickly without looking at alternatives.

Workman said it was unclear how he would be affected personally by the proposed cuts at the World Service but that journalists would fight against any threat of widespread compulsory redundancies, which, if they arrived, could trigger strike action.

‘What we will do is defend our terms and conditions vigorously and we will not accept any compulsory redundancies,’he said.

‘We made this perfectly clear, if there are compulsory redundancies that would escalate the situation dramatically.”

While the prospect of redundancy did offer some staff opportunities, some were ‘very frightened and some very angry’about a future which could result in joblessness or working in a drastically different journalistic climate.

‘It’s the most appalling, dreadful situation that the BBC World Service and the staff at the BBC World Service have ever, ever been in,’he said. ‘It is a disgrace beyond disgrace.”

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