News cuts 415 posts to help save £48m

James Harding giving details of cuts James Harding says it is a 'testing time of uncertainty and change'

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BBC News is to close 415 full-time posts as it seeks to make £48m of Delivering Quality First savings in the next two years.

The 'heavy impact' of the cuts on staff - jobs account for roughly half the total savings - was acknowledged by director of news James Harding, who said he shared their 'distress, concern and anxiety'.

Speaking to staff at Broadcasting House's Radio Theatre, he said that the job losses were likely to affect around 500 people, taking part-time workers into account.

But he added that these would be offset by the creation of 195 new positions.

'Strenuous effort' would be made to fill these new posts through redeployment,' insisted Harding, who said requests for voluntary redundancy from across the News Group would also be granted wherever possible.

'It's a testing time of uncertainty and change,' he continued, admitting that audiences would not be spared the effects of such significant cuts. 'You can't expect [them] to go unseen, unheard and unnoticed.'

The BBC will start consultations with those staff affected and with the unions next week.

Sharing, pooling

Savings will come from across the division, after it was decided not to close services. Harding believed this approach would 'rob people of programmes they love' and would offer 'too small a saving for too big a price for audiences'.

Instead, his senior managers had looked at sharing more backroom services, production effort and content, with World Service being brought more closely into the fold.

For example, the World Service and Radio newsrooms will be combined under a single editor, the News Channel and World News will share some production effort and programmes, while newsgathering will pool its home and foreign duty editors.

World Tonight and Newshour will be brought under a single editor, some foreign bureaux will be co-sited and London-based news and world affairs correspondents will form a single pool covering home and foreign stories.

World Have Your Say, a daily programme on World Service radio and weekly on World News TV, will close in the spring.

Other money-saving changes will see the News Channel move to more single-headed presentation, Panorama lose its four dedicated reporters in London, relying instead on freelancers and other BBC journalists, and bureaux in Afghanistan, South Africa and Dubai shrink.

There will be a smaller arts online team, Newsnight (while being pledged extra money for original stories) will have to make £200,000 cuts through production changes, while the Impact team - which works to make the most of BBC journalism across all platforms - will lose seven posts.

The change of one non-editorial supplier, meanwhile, is expected to deliver £5m of savings.

Staff crowd into the Radio Theatre to hear details of the cuts Staff crowd into the Radio Theatre to hear details of the cuts

Overall, the newsroom is tasked with saving just over £11m for the loss of 90 posts; newsgathering £6m, with 53.5 posts to go, and news programmes £3m for the loss of 27 posts.

New controller

World Service, described by Harding as 'one of the best things about the BBC', will shed 34 roles, but will have its budget increased from the current £245m to £250m in 2016/17.

It will also reintroduce the role of World Service English controller to be 'editor, ambassador and champion' for what Harding called the 'world's best speech radio network'.

Senior managers are not immune from the cuts, with six expected to go. Harding said he would interview for all senior vacancies and would prefer to recruit and promote internally.

New investment, as revealed previously, will focus on two main areas - more distinctive, original journalism (£8m) and the digital transformation of news (£12m).

With this in mind, a restructuring of the newsroom and programme departments has been ordered by mid-October.

It will see tv news channels, digital publishing and development come together in a new 24/7 group, with the aim to create a 'powerhouse for live and connected news on all platforms'.

Daily News Programmes will embrace the likes of the Six, Ten, Today,World Tonight, Breakfast and 5 live and work to deliver 'the best stories, brilliantly told, expertly interrogated', while Current Affairs will combine the television and radio current affairs departments, together with Panorama and Newsnight.

Harding said it was not true that BBC News and Current Affairs was 'fat and inefficient'. Rather, it delivered 'a bigger bang for its buck' than any other news organisation in the country.

'Taking nearly £50m out of a well-run organisation that provides high quality news services that are trusted, relied upon and used by millions of people is an extremely difficult undertaking,' he said. 'The challenge is how to make BBC News even better, despite having less money.'

The NUJ responded angrily to Thursday's announcements, saying the cuts would 'further undermine the ability of journalists to deliver quality content'.

Michelle Stanistreet, the union's general secretary, criticised the 'plan to get rid of hundreds of staff - using licence fee payers' money to cover the redundancy pay-outs - and then immediately hire in a load more'.

And she said the NUJ would fight against any compulsory redundancies.

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