the media and entertainment union
a sector of Prospect

26 January 2011

BECTU issued the following press statement today in response to the BBC's proposals for major cuts in World Service staffing.

BBC World Service cuts "catastrophic" at home and abroad

Media and entertainment union, BECTU, has today accused BBC management of weakness in the face of Foreign Office budget cuts which, if implemented, would see job losses in huge numbers at the World Service.

These proposed cuts will be nothing short of catastrophic if they are implemented. They must be challenged

The BBC today confirmed proposals to close 650 posts, or more than 25 per cent of the current 2400 jobs at the World Service in response to more government-imposed austerity.

Language services hard hit

Five foreign language services face closure at a cost of 70 jobs (49 in the UK), whilst a further 228 jobs (175 in the UK) are being put at risk across all other services.

"These proposed cuts will be nothing short of catastrophic if they are implemented. They must be challenged,” said Helen Ryan, BECTU supervisory official.

"We also call on the BBC itself to do more to persuade the Foreign Office that cuts this deep will do irreparable damage to the World Service," Helen Ryan continued.
Cuts in newsgathering, playout, finance, studio management and tv operations and the closure of the announcers grade account for a further 160 post closures.

A further 140 posts at risk have yet to be identified. BECTU believes that the relocation of World Service operations to Broadcasting House in 2011 and 2012 could provide management's rationale for cuts on this scale.

Last October, as part of the government's Comprehensive Spending Review, BBC management accepted a hastily agreed licence fee settlement from 2013, in effect cutting the BBC's income by 16 per cent for the life of the settlement. In addition, however, and critically, the BBC agreed to fund the World Service and Welsh language broadcaster, S4C, from this reduced income.

World Service staff pay for hasty licence-fee settlement

"The truth of the matter is that 600 World Service staff are being asked to pay with their jobs for the BBC's ill-considered agreement with government" said BECTU's general secretary, Gerry Morrissey.

"Six hundred members of staff, their families, and communities worldwide will bear the brunt of this decision. The World Service will be much weakened and people will think less of the BBC and the UK as a result. These cuts are indeed a false economy," Gerry Morrissey continued. 

BECTU will team up with the NUJ to campaign against the cuts. The union expects calls for industrial action; at this stage we cannot rule anything in or out.

Consultations on the cuts will get underway in the next few days to examine the implications in full. BECTU will also want to address the impact on foreign language staff whose UK residence depends on their employment with the World Service and who face an uncertain, and possibly unsafe, future should they be forced to return home.

The World Service currently spends £25m a year developing and researching services in developing countries. The Foreign Office has not allocated funds to continue this work in 2011 and 2012, a fact which puts still more pressure on the World Service and the BBC.


For more information contact Sharon Elliott, communications officer, on 020 7346 0900 or by email to; or Gerry Morrissey on 07850 317866 or Helen Ryan on 07747 635659.