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Monday, October 18, 2021

Britain’s ‘Auntie’ to cut 450 newsroom jobs ‘to meet saving target’

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The British Broadcasting Corporation will cut 450 newsroom jobs as part of plans to adapt to changing audience needs and meet its savings target, according to the London-based public service broadcaster.

In a statement, Director of News and Current Affairs Fran Unsworth said that the BBC has to face up to the changing way audiences. “We have to adapt and ensure we continue to be the world’s most trusted news organisation, but crucially, one which is also relevant for the people we are not currently reaching,” she said.

The job cuts come just a week after BBC boss Tony Hall said that he would step down and as the corporation grapples with equal-pay demands and questions about its future funding model. The BBC, which has a $104 million (£80 million) saving target, said it is spending too much on traditional linear broadcasting and not enough on digital.

IMPACT MAKING JOURNALISM

Fran Unsworth says BBC is fundamental to contributing to a healthy democracy in UK, around the world
Fran Unsworth says BBC is fundamental to contributing to a healthy democracy in UK, around the world

One morning news magazine programme will be axed, with other job losses coming from a reduction in the number of films produced by flagship political news programme Newsnight. Other jobs will be lost at the national radio station 5 Live, and there will be a review of the number of presenters working for the broadcaster.

It noted that audiences for traditional television broadcasts continued to decline, especially amongst 16 to 34-year-olds. The statement said that the BBC newsroom will be reorganized along with a ‘story-led’ model, focusing on news stories more than on programs or platforms. “This is designed to reduce duplication and to ensure that BBC journalism is making as much impact as possible with a variety of audiences.”

BATTLING NEW WAYS

More BBC journalists will be based outside London in future, added the corporation, following criticism that it had lost touch with the rest of the country. Like many media organisations, the BBC, which is the world’s largest news broadcaster, is battling new ways to win audiences, as news and entertainment consumer habits change.

Tony Hall, who leaves in six months after seven years at the helm, said that it needed new leadership before talks with the government in the middle of the decade over its future funding. Fran Unsworth insisted that Auntie, as it is informally known in Britain, had a vital role to play locally, nationally and internationally.

“In fact, we are fundamental to contributing to a healthy democracy in the UK and around the world,” she said. “If we adopt, we can continue to be the most important news organization in the world.” The corporation is facing the fallout from a recent equal-pay ruling in which it was found to have discriminated against presenter Samira Ahmed, paying her one-sixth of the amount given to Jeremy Vine for hosting a similar show.

BIAS IN REPORTING?

Tony Hall says BBC needs new leadership over its future funding
Tony Hall says BBC needs new leadership over its future funding

The ruling opens the door to many other claims and could end up costing the corporation many millions of pounds. It is also facing pressure from Britain’s new government headed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, which accuses it of bias in reporting during the recent general election.

He told the parliament that the BBC was a cherished institution and not a mortal enemy of the Conservative party. Previously, the government has committed to maintaining the BBC’s license fee model until 2027, which earned it £3.7 billion in funding in the last financial year to April 30.

A standard license costs each British household just over £154 ($202) a year and is legally needed to watch any live television. “You have to ask yourself whether that kind of approach to funding a TV media organisation still makes sense,” the British prime minister said.

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