Morale among BBC Scotland staff at 'all-time low', unions tell MSPs

From Democracy Live: Education and culture committee hears from the NUJ's Peter Murray

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The National Union of Journalists has told MSPs that staff morale at BBC Scotland is at an all-time low, with employees fearful to speak out.

Executive committee member Peter Murray accused the corporation of targeting individuals as it sought to cut costs.

BBC Scotland is set to close 35 posts by March 2013 with most going in news.

No-one from the BBC appeared at the education and culture committee but in a written statement it said it remained committed to delivering "high quality".

Mr Murray called for a "moratorium on new staff cuts".

He added: "Staff morale is pretty well at rock bottom. People say it's no longer a pleasant place to work. People are fearful of their jobs, naturally.

"People are fearful of speaking out publicly.

Start Quote

The overall impact of the budget cuts will, we hope, be offset to a degree by increased network business, which will bring both funding and employment opportunities”

End Quote BBC Scotland statement

"The BBC is supposed to be model employer, not a terrible employer. But at the moment people are saying that the BBC has become a terrible employer.

"Staff are being expected to do much much more. I was told about one reporter who had to work 27 days on the trot without a break, and then was asked to come in and cover someone else.

"That pattern of excessive workload seems to be becoming part of the norm, that senior managers expect this."

Paul McManus, from the Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union (Bectu), also appeared before the committee.

He said reducing staff levels but increasing output and maintaining quality was "just not possible".

Mr McManus added: "You cannot lose 17 staff from news and current affairs and deliver the same level of programming."

The union representatives expressed concerns about what the cuts might do to coverage of the forthcoming independence referendum and Commonwealth Games, both taking place in 2014.

'Cuts offset'

As part of a written submission, BBC Scotland said: "There will be no drop in hours in News and Current Affairs from BBC Scotland - in fact there will be an increase, with more radio news at weekday lunchtimes. We have already reshaped our offering on Saturday mornings, with more news and current affairs on offer to our audience, instead of late night programming.

"The overall number of local TV programmes will reduce, though maintenance of quality will remain a priority. An increased number of nations' opts (local programmes) on network radio and TV will provide opportunities for increased representation and portrayal of Scotland and/or Scottish issues on network.

"The overall impact of the budget cuts will, we hope, be offset to a degree by increased network business, which will bring both funding and employment opportunities."

Committee convener Stewart Maxwell opened the session by saying both the BBC director general George Entwistle and BBC Scotland director Ken MacQuarrie had been invited but had declined to attend.

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