Massive cuts announced at BBC

Nearly 3,000 jobs are threatened with redundancy in a sweeping programme of cuts at the BBC.

Go straight to union response

In an announcement made today, December 7, Director-General Mark Thompson outlined plans for major redundancies in back office support areas and Factual programme-making.

Up to 2,500 staff in the BBC's Professional Services departments, including health & safety, training, recruitment, diversity, and personnel, will either be sacked or out-sourced to new employers, while 400 production jobs in Factual & Learning division are to be closed.

More redundancies could follow as all budgets elsewhere in the BBC are cut by an average of 15% over the next three years, and at least 1,700 staff will be presented with a choice of redundancy, or a move from London to Manchester.

Thompson revealed that Childrens' programmes, both radio and TV, all of BBC Sport, and Radio Five Live, will be moved to a new centre in Manchester as soon as 2009, subject to an adequate licence fee being set by government in 2006.

Union representatives from BECTU and NUJ are due to meet later today to discuss the cuts plans, and a formal meeting with senior BBC management has been fixed for December 9.

Although the changes are the most drastic single package of cuts in living memory at the BBC, Thompson offered some assurances to the unions. In particular he stressed that normal redundancy terms would apply to staff whose jobs are hit, and there were no plans to abandon the BBC's final salary pension scheme.

The long-awaited announcement has left many staff facing months of further uncertainty - no details are available of the exact balance of redundancies and out-sourcing in Professional Services, and more than 2,000 employees of BBC Resources and BBC Broadcast, wholly-owned subsidiaries of the Corporation, will have to wait for further management deliberations before discovering whether they will be transferred to a joint venture or sold off completely.

Thompson was upbeat about the BBC's future, however union officials fear that his proposals contain a number of time-bombs, especially the plan to allow independent producers to compete against in-house programme-makers for 25% of the Corporation's TV output.

In-house production capacity is planned to be cut from the current 70% to 60%, with the prospect of job losses in many content-producing departments,

Other changes which could impact on employment are the introduction of a 25% quota for independently-produced online content, and an extension of the existing 10% voluntary quota for independent radio programming to sport and other genres.


Tuesday 7th December 2004

Union to defend BBC staff from "savage" cuts.

Broadcasting and Entertainment union BECTU today pledged to fight against compulsory redundancies after BBC Director-General Mark Thompson announced almost 3,000 job cuts.

Most of the job cuts will fall in the BBC's Professional Services areas, including health & safety, training, and personnel, and 400 posts will go among programme-makers in Factual and Learning Division.

Union officials fear that more redundancies could follow as budget cuts of 15% fall on other programme departments, and as in-house production capacity is reduced by 14% to allow more independently-produced TV programmes into schedules.

Staff in two wholly-owned subsidiaries, BBC Resources and BBC Broadcast, face months of uncertainty while the BBC decides whether to sell them off, or transfer them into joint ventures with other broadcasters.

BECTU's Assistant General Secretary Gerry Morrissey said: "Many staff want to know why these savage cuts are necessary when all the areas affected have already made significant savings, and in the case of Resources and Broadcast, turned in a healthy cash profit.

"We are committed to fighting against compulsory redundancies, regardless of where they fall, and plan to begin negotiations with the BBC later this week."

Concerns have already been expressed about the cuts planned in back office areas - Thompson predicts that up to 47% of staff in these areas will be affected.

"Staff in these departments are crucial to the smooth running of the BBC", said Morrissey, "and even if they don't actually make the programmes, they certainly make them happen. We're especially worried that as many as half the staff in key sections like health and safety and training may face the axe".

Union officials fear that the headline figure of just under 3,000 cuts could be increased over the next five years by the impact of budget cuts and the move of BBC Sport, Childrens' programmes, and Radio Five Live to Manchester.


7 December 2004