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BBC announces 2,500 job cuts, newsroom integration
The British Broadcasting Corporation has confirmed to its staff a drastic cost-cutting strategy that will result in 2,500 job cuts, the creation of fewer original programs and the integration of its TV, radio and online newsrooms.
In a video message to staff on Thursday, BBC director general Mark Thompson said the decision had to be made if the BBC wanted to survive in today’s digital age.
“Media is transforming. Audiences are transforming,” he said.
“I don’t want to minimize the human consequences of some of the decisions we have reached, but this is not just a story about cuts. It’s about building our future.”
The plan, to be rolled out over the next six years, is the BBC’s answer to a funding shortfall of £2 billion (about $3.97 billion) after it reached a lower-than-expected licence fee settlement with the government earlier this year.
The British public broadcaster is directly funded by the licence fee, an annual tax paid by all households using televisions.
The plan calls for 2,500 jobs to be cut, with 1,800 people to be made redundant and 700 to be redeployed elsewhere in the corporation. The departments facing the largest employee losses include factual programming and news and current affairs.
Thursday’s announcement follows the nearly 4,000 jobs cuts the BBC announced in 2005.
Another key component of the plan is the amalgamation of the BBC’s television, radio and online newsrooms in an attempt to avoid duplication. BBC bosses have said that in the future, they envision journalists filing news for all media lines.
Fewer original shows planned
Thompson also revealed on Thursday that the BBC will cut the number of original shows it makes by 10 per cent and air more reruns, with the focus shifting to making “fewer, better and more distinctive” shows.
“It will be a smaller BBC, but one which packs a bigger punch because it is more focused on quality and the content that really makes a difference to audiences,” Thompson said.
Within the next six years, the broadcaster will also sell the BBC Television Centre. Currently, a large amount of the BBC’s news programming is produced out of the west London facility.
In a related announcement, the BBC will move ahead with its proposal to display advertisements on its international site,
Details of the streamlining plan were leaked earlier this week following a briefing Thompson had with senior executives.
On Wednesday, staffers and union representatives patrolled outside the BBC’s central London headquarters in order to greet members of the broadcaster’s governing board, who were arriving to hear details and give their approval of the plan.
Strike threatened
Unions representing BBC staffers have objected to extreme cost-cutting plans and threatened to strike in the weeks leading up to the holiday season. Journalists have argued that the new strategy will have a detrimental effect on the quality of the BBC service.
“We fail to understand how they can claim to be defending public service broadcasting while making the most savage cuts in core news and current affairs areas,” said Jeremy Dear, head of the National Union of Journalists.
“Unless the BBC reconsiders its position, strike action looks inevitable.”
The BBC has had a rough year in the public eye. Earlier this month, the head of the broadcaster’s flagship TV channel resigned over the misleading editing of documentary footage involving Queen Elizabeth and U.S. photographer Annie Leibovitz.
In July, the broadcaster suspended all on-air contests after an investigation showed a host of its radio and TV competitions were bogus, with offences including production staff phoning in to “win” competitions, an announcement of a fake winner when no winner existed and a contest show aired as live when it was pre-recorded.