Look North to lose host as BBC seeks to save £25m

BBC cutbacks will see Look North reduced to a single presenter and fewer hosts on local radio stations, the corporation has confirmed.

BBC Look North Presenters Amy Garcia, and Harry Gration. Picture: James Hardisty
BBC Look North Presenters Amy Garcia, and Harry Gration. Picture: James Hardisty

Its flagship news programme in Yorkshire has been presented by veteran broadcaster Harry Gration and a roster of co-hosts including Amy Garcia.

But in a plan published today to save £25m in the next two years, the nightly bulletin will be “standardised” to become consistent with 12 other regional programmes and with the national news.

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The changes will mean 450 job losses across the country – around one in seven of those who work on local programmes.

BBC Look North Presenters Harry Gration, on the sofa with Keeley Donovan, in the studio whilst Amy Garcia, chats with the cameraman during a break from filming.

The cuts will also see the 11 different regional editions of the weekly current affairs magazine Inside Out reduced to six, and re-titled. The edition produced from Yorkshire will continue.

However, the regional Sunday Politics programmes – whose future has been in the balance since they were ditched earlier in the year – will return in a “reimagined” format.

Helen Thomas, director of BBC England, said “difficult decisions” had to be made on local and regional services that had been “created more than 50 years ago”.

She said: “We are in the age of the Facebook community group and the WhatsApp neighbourhood chat. We must adapt to better reflect how people live their lives, how they get their news and what content they want.

“We’re going to modernise our offer to audiences in England by making digital a central part of everything we do.”

The National Union of Journalists said the cuts – which will affect presenters, journalists, technical and operation staff – “could have a serious impact” on the BBC’s “ability to represent all parts of the country”.

Its general secretary, Michelle Stanistreet, said: “The Covid-19 crisis has shown more than ever the need for an effective public service broadcaster and for trusted, quality journalism in an era of disinformation and fake news.

“We cannot allow the BBC to sleepwalk into a death by a thousand cuts, which will inevitably see people switch-off because they aren’t getting the service they want.”

A BBC source told The Yorkshire Post that the cuts would mean voluntary redundancies, with the prospect of compulsory job losses if too few people applied.

It had yet to be decided which hosts would go, the source added.

Lord Hall, the outgoing director-general, announced last month that all staff were to be given the chance to apply for redundancy.

A spokesman said: “We will always try first to redeploy people into other jobs.”

The on-screen chemistry generated by local news hosts has long been seen as a way of attracting viewers, and Yorkshire is among seven BBC regions to have retained what it calls the “double header” format. The East Yorkshire edition of Look North is fronted by a single presenter, Peter Levy.

Double-headed shows are also being removed from the BBC’s network of 39 local radio stations, including those in Leeds, York, Sheffield and Hull. Under a new, “simplified” schedule each will operate the same pattern of three presenters a day.

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