BBC cuts hundreds of jobs at World Service
Nearly 400 BBC World Service employees will lose their jobs and switch to digital platforms as part of a cost-cutting program, the broadcaster announced on Thursday, including reducing its Iranian-language service.
The BBC, which celebrates its 100th anniversary next month, said its international services need to make £28.5million (US$31million) in savings as part of wider £500million cuts unions accuse the UK government of dollars).
In July, the broadcaster outlined its plans to merge BBC World News television and its UK equivalent into a single channel, due to launch in April next year.
BBC World Service – one of the UK’s best-known global brands – currently operates in 41 languages ??around the world and has a weekly audience of approximately 364 million people.
But the company said viewership habits were changing and more people were accessing news online, which combined with a freeze on BBC funding and increased operating costs meant a move to “digital first” made financial sense.
“Today’s proposals include around 382 postal closures net,” said the public broadcaster in an online statement.
Eleven language services – Azerbaijani, Brasil, Marathi, Mundo, Punjabi, Russian, Serbian, Sinhala, Thai, Turkish and Vietnamese – are already available digitally only.
Seven more will be added as part of the restructuring plans: Chinese, Gujarati, Igbo, Indonesian, Pidgin, Urdu and Yoruba.
Radio services in Arabic, Persian, Kyrgyz, Hindi, Bengali, Chinese, Indonesian, Tamil and Urdu will be discontinued if the proposals are approved by employees and unions.
No language service will be closed, the broadcaster said, although some productions will move from London and schedules will change.
Thai service will move to Bangkok, Korean service to Seoul and Bangla service to Dhaka.
The TV bulletin Focus on Africa is broadcast from Nairobi, he added.
Liliane Landor, director of the BBC World Service, said there was a “compelling case” for expanding digital services as viewership has more than doubled since 2018.
“The way audiences access news and content is changing, and the challenge of reaching and engaging people around the world with quality, trustworthy journalism is growing,” she added.
– government criticized –
Bectu broadcast union leader Philippa Childs expressed disappointment at the proposed changes.
“While we recognize that the BBC must adapt to meet the challenges of a changing media landscape, it is once again workers who are being hurt by the government’s poorly judged policy decisions,” she said.
The government’s freeze on BBC World Service royalties has led to a funding squeeze and the need for cuts, she added.
Bectu will urge staff to be redeployed where possible and to ensure “the need for forced layoffs is mitigated,” Childs said.
BBC World Service is funded by the UK license fee – currently £159 for a color TV and payable by every household with a TV.
Since the UK’s divisive Brexit referendum in 2016, the BBC has faced repeated claims from right-wingers that it is politically biased and pushing a “woke”, London-centric liberal agenda.
But it has faced similar accusations of political bias in favor of the right from the left.
The government announced a license fee freeze in January in what critics saw as an attempt to save then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s job.
At the time, Johnson was facing mounting allegations of misconduct in office, ultimately forcing him to resign.
Ministers called for the funding model to be overhauled due to technological changes, including the introduction of streaming services, as well as increased living costs.
But opposition parties said the monthly payments – equivalent to about £13.13 – were a small change compared to the thousands of pounds a year increases in energy bills.
Culture Secretary at the time, Johnson loyalist Nadine Dorries, had previously accused the BBC of “tokenism” in hiring diversity and elitist “groupthink” but denied wanting to dismantle the company.