Morale tumbles as BBC current affairs heads quit

By Caitlin Pike In the week that two top executives at BBC Current Affairs have announced they are leaving, the NUJ has spoken out on low morale among staff in the department where they are facing up to 40 job losses in the next year.

NUJ broadcasting organiser Paul McLaughlin told Press Gazette that members did have real concerns about impending job losses and what the future would hold.

He said: "There is a real morale issue at BBC Current Affairs. And as a result of the WOCC [the Window of Creative Competition — a new BBC policy which will see 25 per cent more programmes being open to the independent sector] nearly 40 jobs are at risk over the next 12 months. We are looking to George Entwhistle, as a new head of the department, to look at all these factors afresh as there is a very demoralised group of people there."

McLaughlin added that the NUJ intended to negotiate with the BBC over the possible job losses in BBC Current Affairs and that it was hoped all cut backs could be met through constructive discussions and voluntary redundancies.

Panorama editor Mike Robinson announced he was leaving the corporation this week, just days after his colleague, BBC head of documentaries Alan Hayling, announced that he was to re-join the independent sector.

A BBC insider told Press Gazette that while Robinson was leaving "partly because he had done a five-year stint on Panorama, he too was affected by the changes within the department and the uncertainty over exactly where current affairs is going".

Hayling is said to have decided to leave the BBC because he didn’t agree with changes taking place in Current Affairs, including the reduction in the number of senior executives, forcing colleagues to go up against each other for positions.

While Robinson was editor of Panorama, the programme has had an award-winning run — including RTS awards for the programme on the row between the Government and the BBC following allegations broadcast on Today over the weapons of mass destruction dossier, and John Simpson’s programme on death by friendly fire in Iraq.

But Panorama has suffered in the ratings battle after it was moved from Monday nights to the infamous ‘graveyard slot’ on Sunday evenings. While the BBC has secured it eight Wednesday evenings slots a year, this has not repaired the damage done by the move to a regular Sunday slot.

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