BBC to slash 2,000 jobs to make £670m savings

The BBC is to slash around 2,000 jobs from its workforce of about 18,000, as the public-funded broadcaster bids to reduce spending by 20% over five years.

Mark Thompson: BBC director-general revealed details of savings strategy
Mark Thompson: BBC director-general revealed details of savings strategy

The jobs cuts will impact across the organisation, which will also cut spending across existing TV and radio services. But the BBC has opted not to axe any of its digital channels to save money, except for replacing its dedicated HD channel with a BBC Two HD channel.

The long-awaited cuts were announced to staff today (6 October) by BBC director-general Mark Thompson and the chairman of the BBC Trust, Lord Patten.

They will hit multiple areas of the BBC including "back office functions", "content and programme-making" and "investment in individual channels".

Sports rights, entertainment shows, BBC Three and BBC Four and radio news will be among those areas impacted.

The Asian network station – which was previously earmarked for closure – will have a third of its content budget reduced, while Radio 1 and Radio 2 will be forced to share news services. Radio 4 has been exempted from the cuts.

BBC One and BBC Two's entertainment spend will be curtailed and all new general daytime shows will be broadcast on BBC One, while BBC Two daytime programming will consist of repeats.

Digital operations – previously hit with spending cuts of 25% – will receive some reinvestment, the BBC said.

Approximately 2,000 jobs are expected to be culled by 2016, while a further 1,000 BBC staff will be moved to the BBC’s new Media City in Salford, Greater Manchester.

The broadcaster is committed to save £670m after the licence fee was frozen at £145.50 a year for six years, to 2016/2017.

Thompson said: "This is a plan which puts quality and creativity first. It’s a plan for a smaller BBC, but a BBC that uses its resources more effectively and collaboratively to deliver a full range of service to the public.

"The plans meet the savings target we agreed in last year’s licence-fee settlement, but also identifies nearly £150m per year to invest in new high-quality output and in the platforms and services of the future."

The cuts have been lambasted by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), which said: "The quality of journalism and programming will inevitably be diluted".

The BBC Trust has now launched a public consultation on the proposals.

Patten said: "The BBC is far from perfect, but it is a great institution and, at its best, a great broadcaster. We have a tough and challenging new licence-fee settlement, but it should be possible to run an outstanding broadcaster on £3.5bn a year.

"The Trust’s view has been clear from the start of this process – the BBC must look to run itself as efficiently as possible before we consider cutting services. Over half of the savings announced today will come from changes to operations, but there will need to be changes to services, and we now need to test BBC management’s proposals for this."

Changes to the BBC’s TV channels

  • Protecting BBC One and BBC Two in peak time, albeit with small reductions in entertainment programming and acquisitions
  • Making BBC One the channel for all new general daytime programmes
  • Changing BBC Two’s daytime schedule to feature international news and current affairs programmes at lunchtime. Other parts of the daytime schedule would be repeats of mainly factual programmes, including science, history, natural history and arts, as well as live sport.
  • Refocusing BBC Three and BBC Four to play supporting roles to the two bigger channels.
  • Replacing the HD Channel with an HD version of BBC Two to broadcast alongside the existing BBC One HD channel.

Changes to the BBC’s radio stations

  • Protecting Radio 4 by keeping its underlying budget stable, excluding the impact of productivity savings.
  • Greater sharing of news bulletins between Radio 2 and 6 Music, Radio 1 and 1Xtra, and Radio 3 and Radio 4.
  • Reducing the amount of original drama, live music and specifically recorded concerts at lunchtime on Radio 3, and reviewing the BBC’s orchestras and singers.
  • Reinvestment in the Proms to maintain quality.
  • Focusing Radio 5 Live on core output of news and sport.
  • A new more-focused Asian Network with a 34% reduction in its content spend.

Follow John Reynolds on Twitter @johnreynolds10

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