News, Culture & Society

BBC Blood bath: High-profile presenters are among 450 jobs being axed

High profile and highly paid BBC presenters are facing the axe after a cull of 450 jobs in the corporation’s news department was unveiled yesterday.

Staff were left reeling at the scale of the cutbacks, which will see around one in 13 roles go and are part of an £80million savings programme.

Newsnight, BBC2’s flagship current affairs show, is among the programmes bearing the brunt of the cuts, along with popular radio station Radio 5 Live and the World Service, which will lose 50 roles.

As a result, the BBC, which has about 6,000 news staff, will cover fewer stories and plough more money into its online output, saying it was currently ‘spending too much’ on ‘traditional linear broadcasting’.

A well-placed BBC source said it was not just rank-and-file staff that faced losing their jobs, but potentially well-known on-air presenters. Many have been under scrutiny since the BBC’s pay list revealed that many earn huge six-figure salaries. The source said: ‘No one is immune from the cuts, not even the presenters. Big names are not protected.’

Fran Unsworth, director of news, spoke at BBC’s Broadcasting House in London today

Last night, unions warned of an ‘existential threat’ to the BBC and insiders hinted that compulsory redundancies could lead to potential strike action.

What will now change at the BBC and where will the job losses be?

The BBC is proposing to make the following changes to its output:

  • The Victoria Derbyshire programme on television will end ‘later this year’
  • Reduction in films on Newsnight, which will lead to job losses 
  • Job losses at 5Live driven by ‘changing listening habits’ 
  • World Update on World Service English will be closed
  • Review of the number of presenters the BBC has and how they work

There was also fury that the corporation was slashing the number of journalists while continuing to pay a fortune to sports and entertainment stars, such as Match Of The Day presenter Gary Lineker, who is on around £1.75million per year.

On a dramatic day for the corporation:

  • Victoria Derbyshire confronted the BBC news boss Fran Unsworth about why her show had been axed;
  • It emerged that Newsnight would axe 12 posts, slash the number of in-depth films and spend less on investigative journalism, according to the National Union of Journalists;
  • Radio 5 Live faces losing about ten roles, driven by ‘changing listening habits’ and demand for digital content;
  • Up to 60 radio production and operations posts are being closed.

In 2016, the BBC revealed it needed to save £800million a year from its annual licence fee revenue of £3.7billion, with about £80million coming from the news department.

At the same time, the licence fee, which accounts for around 75 per cent of the BBC’s revenue, is under unprecedented pressure. Last June, the corporation controversially announced it was scrapping free TV licences for most over-75s. However, even after the cuts, the budget for BBC News programming will still be around £480million per year.

This graphic was posted on a screen during the announcement in London today, showing the split between 'outlets', 'story teams', 'specialist production teams' and 'commissioning points'

This graphic was posted on a screen during the announcement in London today, showing the split between ‘outlets’, ‘story teams’, ‘specialist production teams’ and ‘commissioning points’

‘Did you lie to me?’ Furious Victoria Derbyshire confronts BBC News boss Fran Unsworth over axeing of her show as £300,000-a-year chief Fran Unsworth tells her: ‘I’m paid to make really difficult decisions’

 

Victoria Derbyshire today confronted the chief of BBC News, asking if bosses had lied to her about the axing of her BBC Two current affairs programme.

The 51-year-old presenter asked the BBC’s director of news and current affairs Fran Unsworth if they had lied to her and her team about the show’s goals.

Ms Unsworth, who earns £340,000 a year, apologised about the programme being cut, telling the host: ‘I’m paid to make really difficult decisions about this.’

Ms Derbyshire, who earns £215,000 a year, found out about the cut last week after reading it in a newspaper and admitted she was left ‘absolutely devastated’.

But Ms Unsworth said during today’s meeting at Broadcasting House: ‘I’d like to apologise to the team for the way the story emerged, that was not our intention.’

Ms Derbyshire condemned claims by the BBC that it is cutting her show because it failed to grow its live audience.

She tweeted: ‘We were NEVER asked to grow the linear TV audience. Ever. We were asked to grow our digital audience – we did.

‘Our digi figures are huge (our successful digital figures appear to be an inconvenience to those making the decisions).’

She added: ‘Our remit when we were set up: 1. Original journalism 2. Reaching underserved audiences 3. Growing the digital figures. We achieved all three.’

Ms Derbyshire live tweeted from a briefing to BBC staff about the cuts to the news division as part of a cost-reduction drive.

She posted an image of a screen from the presentation, entitled Modernising BBC News, which she said was being streamed to staff elsewhere in the BBC.

She told her followers: ‘Head of internal comms just said to us all, ‘enjoy and relax’.’

And she wrote of the BBC’s director of news and current affairs: ‘Fran Unsworth arrives…. ‘Cheery’ music in room like you hear when you’re your put on hold…..’

An online petition calling for the corporation to reverse the BBC’s decision to cut the programme has more than 30,000 signatures.

In yesterday’s announcement, the BBC said the moves would reduce ‘duplication’, amid long-standing concerns about the way multiple reporters from different programmes are sent to cover the same events, and that the measures would also see more of journalists based outside London. 

Fran Unsworth, director of news and current affairs, said: ‘We need to reshape BBC News for the next decade in a way which saves substantial amounts of money.

‘We are spending too much of our resources on traditional linear broadcasting and not enough on digital.

‘Our duty as a publicly funded broadcaster is to inform, educate and entertain every citizen. But there are many people in this country that we are not serving well enough.’

When she was asked by staff if the £80million savings programme would be the end of the cuts, she was said to have admitted she could not be sure and pointed out that the Government is considering decriminalising non-payment of the licence fee – a move which could hit its budget further. She said she felt the BBC was ‘under threat’.

A former BBC editor said: ‘The big question is whether this makes BBC News better in quality terms.

‘It has become less distinctive in recent years, and its digital offering is sometimes weak. It’s hard to see how cutting journalists helps this. So it seems to be a case of fingers crossed and hope for the best.’

Michelle Stanistreet , general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, said: ‘These damaging cuts are part of an existential threat to the BBC and a direct consequence of the last disastrous, secret licence fee deal the BBC agreed with the Government. This is before the impact of taking over responsibility for the over-75s licences kicks in.’

The BBC needs to save £80million by 2022 but prior to yesterday’s announcement had saved about half this amount. The job losses will happen between now and 2022 with some happening more immediately than others.

One BBC insider warned that there was a willingness to ‘work to rule’ once the details of the cuts became clearer.

BBC Newsnight’s diplomatic editor, Mark Urban, wrote on Twitter: ‘I’ve been on Newsnight a long time, I know, but this is the fourth reporter cull since I’ve been working here. Glum.’

Damian Collins, former chairman of the culture, media and sport select committee, said: ‘There will be concerns about proposed BBC News cuts. They should explain how it’ll impact the BBC’s ability to reach people.’ 

The news comes days after a petition, organised by the National Federation Of The Blind Of The UK was handed in to the BBC and Downing Street, which warned that removing the service would ‘leave many people, who are already vulnerable, further isolated from society’.

BBC director general Tony Hall said he would examine the concerns and make ‘a fresh decision’ in the spring.

Miss Unsworth reportedly added: ‘What we see from audience research is that we are really super-serving a more limited section of the audience.

‘Everybody pays into the licence fee and everybody has to get something out of the licence fee… we see a big drop-off in audiences under the age of 35 who are getting their news in the digital space.

Ms Unsworth said today the plan is to have 'multi-skilled story teams', showing this graphic

Ms Unsworth said today the plan is to have ‘multi-skilled story teams’, showing this graphic

‘Did you lie to me?’: Furious Victoria Derbyshire confronts BBC News boss Fran Unsworth over axeing of her show – as £300,000-a-year chief tells her she’s ‘paid to make really difficult decisions’  

By Mark Duell for MailOnline 

Victoria Derbyshire today confronted the chief of BBC News, asking if bosses had lied to her about the axing of her BBC Two current affairs programme.

The 51-year-old presenter asked the BBC’s director of news and current affairs Fran Unsworth if they had lied to her and her team about the show’s goals.

Ms Unsworth, who earns £340,000 a year, apologised about the programme being cut, telling the host: ‘I’m paid to make really difficult decisions about this.’

Ms Derbyshire, who earns £215,000 a year, found out about the cut last week after reading it in a newspaper and admitted she was left ‘absolutely devastated’.

Victoria Derbyshire, pictured on her show last week, today confronted the chief of BBC News

Victoria Derbyshire, pictured on her show last week, today confronted the chief of BBC News

But Ms Unsworth said during today’s meeting at Broadcasting House: ‘I’d like to apologise to the team for the way the story emerged, that was not our intention.’

Ms Derbyshire condemned claims by the BBC that it is cutting her show because it failed to grow its live audience.

She tweeted: ‘We were NEVER asked to grow the linear TV audience. Ever. We were asked to grow our digital audience – we did. 

Derbyshire live tweeted from a briefing to BBC staff about the cuts to the news division as part of a cost-reduction drive

Derbyshire live tweeted from a briefing to BBC staff about the cuts to the news division as part of a cost-reduction drive

‘Our digi figures are huge (our successful digital figures appear to be an inconvenience to those making the decisions).’

She added: ‘Our remit when we were set up: 1. Original journalism 2. Reaching underserved audiences 3. Growing the digital figures. We achieved all three.’

Ms Derbyshire live tweeted from a briefing to BBC staff about the cuts to the news division as part of a cost-reduction drive.

She posted an image of a screen from the presentation, entitled Modernising BBC News, which she said was being streamed to staff elsewhere in the BBC.

She told her followers: ‘Head of internal comms just said to us all, ‘enjoy and relax’.’

And she wrote of the BBC’s director of news and current affairs: ‘Fran Unsworth arrives…. ‘Cheery’ music in room like you hear when you’re your put on hold…..’

An online petition calling for the corporation to reverse the BBC’s decision to cut the programme has more than 30,000 signatures.

Presenter Victoria Derbyshire leaves BBC Broadcasting House in London last Thursday

Presenter Victoria Derbyshire leaves BBC Broadcasting House in London last Thursday

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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