BBC To Shed 2000 Jobs, Unions Plan Action


The big story of the week is, of course, the news that the BBC is set to shed 2000 jobs by 2016/2017. Announced on Thursday October 6th, the cuts are “based on a new programme of efficiencies and a clearer focus on the BBC’;s editorial priorities” according to the BBC Trust. All told, the BBC has committed to savings of £670m.
The BBC says it was required to make savings of 16% as a result of its latest licence fee settlement. But in addition, “The Director-General set an extra 4% savings target for reinvestment back into programming to boost quality and distinctiveness.”
The cuts are the result of a nine-month consultation process called Delivering Quality First (DQF). Inevitably, they have been met with dismay by many staff, but BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten said: “It should still be possible to run an outstanding broadcaster on £3.5bn a year”. 
The proposed savings don’;t involve the axing of any services (though some critics had argued for the closure of BBC3 or BBC4): “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 will come from changes to operations.”
Examples of how the corporation might save money include: “a more flexible workforce which reduces duplication of expertise; streamlining the corporation’;s use of technology; reducing senior management numbers and flattening the BBC”s structure, modernisation of terms and conditions for BBC staff; increasing out-of-London production.”
BBC DG Mark Thompson, the architect of the cuts, said: “This is a plan for a smaller BBC, which uses its resources more effectively and collaboratively to deliver a full range of services. But it is a plan which also means stretching efficiencies and significant job losses. It’;s my judgement that this is the last time the BBC will be able to make this level of savings without a loss of services or quality.”
While Thompson has managed to keep all of the corporation”s services running, he warned that there will be changes to the structure, genres and investment in individual channels and services (changes that equate to 6% of the 20% savings).
Examples of changes to the BBC’;s TV channels: “Protecting BBC One and 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 while other parts of the daytime schedule would be repeats; re-focusing BBC Three and BBC Four to play supporting roles to the two bigger channels.”
Departments to escape the cuts include BBC Films, which only employs 13. However broadcasting union BECTU has already said that the BBC will be hit by strikes before Christmas if it does not reconsider its cuts. 
Gerry Morrissey, BECTU general secretary said: “While it was inevitable in the current climate that the BBC would be asked to reduce costs, responsibility for the huge challenges which the BBC faces rests with the government and with the BBC”s senior management. The deal on the licence fee which Mark Thompson agreed with the Treasury last October was hasty. The proposed salami-slicing cuts to services will destroy quality, destroy jobs and ultimately destroy the BBC”.

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