“The best journalism in the world” insisted BBC management as they unveiled the extent of 20% cut across the corporation, resulting in 2000 workers losing their jobs. After nine months of a one-way "Delivering Quality First" review with staff, BBC boss Mark Thompson finally announced the finer prints of a smaller and radically reshaped BBC. He hoped to convince BBC viewers that, despite getting a raw deal when he agreed last autumn with the coalition Government a freeze in the licence fee until 2017, he managed to keep essential services with little impact on programmes.
Thompson boasted that he found the £700m in annual saving, over half saved through productivity gains. The changes will see more repeats on BBC2, fewer entertainment shows, less money spent on sports rights and a shrunken BBC3 and BBC4. Stressing that it is a plan for a BBC which “uses its resources more effectively” he played down the impact of the loss of 2000 jobs on quality and standards.
The unions highlighted the significant impact of the slashing of 700 to 800 in BBC News and its reduction in business coverage, investigative journalism and foreign news. Changes to working conditions will also suffer. Current staff will see cuts to their allowances and changes to their redundancy consultation periods. Terms for new staff with worse salaries and conditions is bound to create a two-tier workforce.
NUJ GS Michelle Stanistreet described the announcement “a watershed moment in BBC history”. “We are stunned that BBC news, BBC radio and quality journalism have received a disproportionate hit today. The cuts risk irreparable damage to the BBC and will inevitably compromise quality journalism and programming.” she said, vowing stiff resistance, including strike action.
In view of the close relationship between the government and Rupert Murdoch at the time the licence fee deal was done, the NUJ has been calling for the deal to be re-opened and a proper public debate to take place about BBC funding.