BBC strike threat over plan to axe 415 journalist jobs

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The BBC is facing a fresh threat of industrial action after announcing plans to axe 415 posts to save £48m a year by 2016-17.

The cuts will be offset by around 195 new roles, meaning a net reduction of 220 jobs. No positions in Yorkshire are expected to be affected.

James Harding, the BBC’s director of news and current affairs, gave details of the cuts to a staff meeting in London, saying: “Taking nearly £50m out of a well-run organisation that provides high quality news services that are trusted, relied upon and used by millions of people is an extremely difficult undertaking.

“The challenge is how to make BBC News even better, despite having less money.”

Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), attacked the announcement.

She said: “They plan to get rid of hundreds of staff – using licence fee payers’ money to cover the redundancy payouts – and then immediately hire in a load more. You couldn’t make it up.”

Gerry Morrissey, general secretary of the technicians’ union Bectu, said he understood the posts would go before any of the new jobs were filled. He warned of industrial action if the BBC went ahead with cutting the jobs first.

Journalists and technicians are already going on strike for 12 hours next Wednesday, to coincide with the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, in a row over pay.

Mr Harding said: “We are living through a period of extraordinary change in news media.

“BBC News led the way first in radio, then in television and then online. Now, digital technologies offer us the opportunity to lead a fourth revolution in news. So, as well as setting out our savings plan this morning, we are also announcing proposals to restructure news and target investments in our future – in the digital transformation of BBC News, in our own original and distinctive journalism, in making this a better place to work.”

Changes include reorganising the newsroom and programmes department into three operations, integrating the World Service to reduce costs in international bureaux, and changes to planning and commissioning.

The announcement also included proposals to increase sharing of production teams and international programming by the BBC News Channel and World News, combining the World Service and radio newsrooms and combining production teams for the World Tonight and Newshour programmes.