In Depth

Why the BBC is cutting 450 jobs

The corporation is trying to modernise and streamline to better fit the digital age

The BBC revealed to staff on Wednesday that it will oversee a restructuring of its news division which will result in the loss of roughly 450 jobs.

The cuts come as the corporation continues to push to reduce outlay by £80m by 2022 to manage continued financial pressures, and modernise to meet the demands of digital media consumers.

“We need to reshape BBC News for the next decade in a way which saves substantial amounts of money. We are spending too much of our resources on traditional linear broadcasting and not enough on digital,” said Fran Unsworth, director of news and current affairs.

“Our duty as a publicly funded broadcaster is to inform, educate, and entertain every citizen. But there are many people in this country that we are not serving well enough.”

Politicians are increasingly questioning the BBC’s value in the modern media landscape, and have called the TV licence fee in particular into question recently. The prime minister’s political adviser Dominic Cummings runs a thinktank which calls for the “end of the BBC in its current form.”

Over half of the planned £80m has already been saved, but efforts are being stepped up, and among the changes envisaged under the new proposals is pooling of reporters rather than journalists assigned to individual programmes - an attempt to reduce duplicate stories for different outlets.

There will also be a reduction in the number of films made by Newsnight, which will result in a portion of the job cuts, as well as further reductions to Radio 5 Live and the World Service’s World Update programme staff.

The number of presenters at BBC News is up for review, while the aim is to have more journalists based outside of London, with hopes for more responsive, localised reporting.

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Another source of cuts will be the mothballing of BBC Two’s Victoria Derbyshire programme - a plan that was leaked last week, and met with public dismay, prompting an online petition to reinstate it which has received tens of thousands of signatures.

Derbyshire, who said she was “devastated” by the news and is fighting to reinstate her show, apparently confronted Unsworth after her announcement at BBC News on Wednesday.

“The problem is the BBC is increasingly trying to ride two horses at once,” diagnoses The Guardian, pointing out that the corporation serves an older audience with whom its traditional output remains popular, and a younger one with whom it needs to stay relevant and simply does not consume the media the corporation produces.

It has to negotiate this dilemma “operating on an ever-reducing budget, while maintaining journalistic standards, at a time when every aspect of the BBC’s output is under more scrutiny than ever before”, the publication adds.

Noel McClean, the national secretary of Bectu - the union representing BBC staff - said his organisation would try to minimise the impact of the cuts.

“It would be easy to point the finger at BBC management, and we will absolutely hold them to account, but Bectu knows that the reality is much more complicated and that Government policy (including decisions around free licences for over 75s) has led to the pressures that impact our members and audiences,” he said.

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