Union warns of ‘existential threat’ as BBC plans to cut 450 news jobs


London –   A trade union warned that the BBC faces an existential threat after the broadcaster announced plans to cut some 450 news and shift to a multi-platform, story-led model on Wednesday.

BBC News said it aims to modernize its newsroom to respond to changing audience needs, ensure it is providing a truly universal service and save 80 million pounds (104 million dollars) by 2022.

“The BBC newsroom will be reorganised along a ‘story-led’ model, focusing on news stories more than on programmes or platform,’’ it said.

The announcement comes as the British national broadcaster fights to retain its public funding with television licence fees, amid allegations from both eurosceptic and pro-EU politicians that its Brexit coverage has been biased.

The cuts will affect some of the BBC’s most respected radio and television news programmes.

The Victoria Derbyshire programme, a popular daytime current affairs show, will be axed because it is no longer cost effective to produce for TV, the BBC said.

“These damaging cuts are part of an existential threat to the BBC, and a direct consequence of the last disastrous, secret licence fee deal the BBC agreed with the government,’’ said Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).

Stanistreet added that Britain’s public service broadcasting is under unprecedented threat.

She said a politically motivated plan by Conservative Prime Minister ’s government to decriminalise non-payment of compulsory television licence fees could cost the BBC some 245 million pounds annually.

The broadcaster said it plans to reduce duplication, increase use of news material across its platforms, and shift its news focus to reflect subjects that matter most to the audience.

“The changes mean there will be a reduction in the overall number of stories covered,’’ it said, adding that its decision followed detailed analysis of audience data.

“It said it plans to invest more in digital platforms, including a news app with increased personalisation.

“We need to reshape BBC News for the next decade in a way which saves substantial amounts of money,’’ said Fran Unsworth, the BBC’s head of news and current affairs.

“We are spending too much of our resources on traditional linear broadcasting and not enough on digital,’’ Unsworth said.

“But there are many people in this country that we are not serving well enough.’’

Tony Hall, the BBC director general, last week announced his plan to step down during the next six months, saying Britain needs a BBC that can champion the nation’s creativity at home and abroad, and help play its part in bringing the UK together.

The BBC employs some 22,000 people. About 6,000 work in its news units, including 1,700 outside Britain.


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