Thousands to lose jobs at BBC after radical changes announced

BBC staff are expecting massive job cuts and huge changes after the BBC unveiled a “radical program of reform” aimed at “continuing to deliver the highest quality content to audiences when and how they want it.” The UK public broadcaster is making the cuts in the face of a reduction in revenue from the national licence fee.

Following approval by the BBC Trust, the six-year plan will deliver “a smaller but fitter organisation.”

Efficiency savings will be required in “every part of the BBC, with every penny freed up reinvested in high quality, distinctive content and the way audiences consume it.”

The plan, Delivering Creative Future, rests on three fundamental propositions:

• A focus on quality – to provide fewer but better, more innovative and more distinctive programs.

• A digital step change – to offer audiences programs wherever and whenever they want them – from iPlayer to My BBC Radio, audiences will be able to find, play and share BBC content. To help deliver this ambition, largely separate TV, radio and web news operations will integrate into one of the world’s most advanced multimedia newsrooms.

• A smaller BBC – which will provide best value to audiences.

BBC Director-General Mark Thompson told staff:

“Media is transforming. Audiences are transforming. It would be easy to say that the sheer pace of this revolution is too fast for the BBC. That for us to do what other media players are doing – integrating newsrooms, mixing media, exploiting the same content aggressively across different platforms – is just too radical … but I think we can see both here and around the world the price you pay for taking what looks like the safe option.

“I’ve devoted almost my whole working life to the BBC, much of that not as a suit but as a rank-and-file program-maker. I love the BBC and what it stands for. I care too much to see it drift steadily into irrelevance.”

Over the next six years, the BBC says it will focus particularly on enhancing quality output in Journalism, Drama, Knowledge and Comedy programming:

• Journalism: the BBC will develop enhanced on-demand news, sport and local information services for the digital age, with major new investment, promoting convenience, personalisation and participation. It will also build new content for under-served audiences, including a multi-media BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat.

BBC News will establish an integrated multi-media newsroom and multi-media programmes department to ensure that BBC News remains world-class and highly valued by audiences. The proportion of content spend that goes to Journalism will go up over the next six years.

Television drama: prioritising high-impact, distinctive drama series of wide appeal and range, from classic drama such as this autumn’s new five-part drama serial Cranford starring Judi Dench to modern drama that captures the imagination of audiences, such as Life On Mars, Doctor Who and Spooks.

Knowledge: producing history, arts, science, religion and natural history landmark programmes which span all platforms and offer greater audience interaction with a strong online presence to support life-long learning.

Comedy: the BBC will continue to be the biggest investor in original comedy in the UK across the portfolio, building on such successes as After You’ve Gone, The Catherine Tate Show and Gavin And Stacey.

• A UK-wide BBC: more production from across the country for the BBC’s UK network, delivered for example through investments in mediacity: UK at Salford and Pacific Quay in Glasgow.

Tough choices have been necessary, against the backdrop of the licence fee settlement, to deliver these plans. From the raft of detailed proposals, the headline efficiency savings and financial reprioritisation decisions approved by the Trust are:

• Cuts will take place to meet demanding efficiency targets of 3% per year for the period.

Making 10% less originated programming in television by 2012/13, cutting lower impact programming to focus on fewer, higher quality, programs.

A radical reform of factual program-making to ensure a sustainable in-house production base which will maintain this output at the heart of the BBC.

• In the Journalism group, which includes News, Nations and Regions, Global News and Sport, tackling duplication by bringing services together into a market-leading tri-media news production operation and promoting greater multi-media working.

A range of other efficiency cuts will see the BBC loser about 1,800 staff through redundancies by the end of the period, with further staff reductions to 2,500 positions by 2012/2013, with the areas of News and Factual production most affected.

Details of the reforms are outlined at the link below.