The BBC today announced it is undertaking an “extensive restructure” of its Monitoring service, including cutting nearly 100 jobs, in a bid to find £4m in savings by 2017.
BBC Monitoring, funded by the licence fee, provides news and information based on open source media around the world to BBC News, the UK Government and other commercial clients.
According to the NUJ, nearly one in three posts in the editorial and related support teams will be closed as a result of the restructure, with a net loss of 98 jobs after the creation of new posts.
Monitoring’s overseas offices have had staff numbers cut by about 20 per cent with 40 per cent of staff in the UK facing dismissal.
The union has also said it fears IT and other non-editorial teams will face cuts once the editorial operation shrinks.
Operating costs for the current financial year are £13.2m, including 320 staff and offices in Mazar-i-Sharif in Afghanistan. The content produced by the team is available in 100 different languages covering 150 countries.
Francesca Unsworth, director of the BBC World Service Group, said BBC Monitoring had provided an “invaluable service” for more than 75 years.
She said that by “spotting developing stories and trends in hundreds of languages and countries across the world” the service had helped the BBC “to offer a truly global news service”.
She added: “Like all media organisations, BBC Monitoring has to keep pace with the new landscape of digital and social media. And, like the rest of the BBC, BBC Monitoring needs to make savings.
“The proposals we’ve announced are designed to make BBC Monitoring fit for the future and better for its clients, focusing on digital and social media as well as traditional media, and ensuring the organisation can respond to change more easily.
“Today’s plans build on significant changes we’ve already made in BBC Monitoring, including a new production system for staff and a new delivery portal for clients.”
BBC Monitoring’s office in Caversham Park, Reading, where it has been based since 1943, is also due to be relocated to London by 2020.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said: “As the UK faces unprecedented uncertainty following Brexit, as tensions between Russia and the West increase and so-called ISIS spreads terror around the world, the work of Monitoring is vastly more important.
“What a crazy time to be making such huge cuts. We will now be in consultation with the BBC and aim to minimise the damage.”
Stuart Seaman, NUJ father of chapel at BBC Monitoring, said: “This is a classic case of knowing the cost but not the value. Users have always praised our reporting on other countries through their media. But all too often, our paymasters have seen Monitoring as an easy target for savings.
“The world is an increasingly difficult place and we need to not only know what is happening but to make sense of it as well. Monitoring helps us to do exactly that. We should be making the most of this unique and economical resource, not cutting it to the bone.”
BBC Monitoring was paid for by government bodies and the BBC until 2013, when the BBC took it into the licence fee under a deal done in 2010 by then director general Mark Thompson.