BBC announces cuts to English regional TV, radio and online output

BBC Bristol

The BBC is to cut 450 jobs in its English regional TV news and current affairs, local radio and online news.

Seven of the 20 presenters on 6.30pm regional TV bulletins will be cut, and some local radio shows will be axed.

In a statement, Helen Thomas, Director of BBC England, said: “Our services have played a vital role in covering the pandemic and in supporting communities at this difficult time. The pandemic has challenged us to work in different ways. Some of these have revealed really positive new ways of working — including efficiencies that we will carry on into the future.

“In BBC England, we need to save £25 million by the end of March 2022.  That will mean losing in the region of 450 jobs,” she added.

She said that the organisation will not be making  changes to its highly regional TV bulletins, but it will reduce the number of presenters on its 6:30pm regional TV news bulletins.

The National Union of Journalists says that the BBC’s plans to cut 450 jobs across England by the end of March could have a serious impact on its ability to represent all parts of the country and produce high-quality local news and investigative journalism.

Paul Siegert, NUJ national broadcasting organiser, said: “The hit to local radio – for staff and listeners – will be a major blow. Commercial radio has all but given up on providing any local news and radio has been a great mainstay for many communities during the crisis. Last time swingeing cuts were planned for local radio there was huge hue and cry.

“It’s also unclear how 142 jobs can go from Regional TV and Online unless there’s going to be a serious drop in quality and standards. The union will fight these cuts and ensure that any changes that take place are dealt with as fairly as possible.”

Nicky Godding, editor of Business & Innovation Magazine, said: “The regional media do our best to fairly report on and engage with our readers, viewers and listeners. We report on regional business news, but the BBC covers the whole gamut of news. In times of crisis, our regional presenters on the TV and radio become a particularly comforting and familiar focus for viewers and listeners. Cutting the number of regional presenters feels similar to taking bobbies off the beat. If an organisation reduces the number of presenters, there will be less time to understand and report on the region it serves.”

The new vision for the BBC in the regions includes:

  • Modernising the BBC’s regional TV centres and investing in  technology.
  • Commissioning a broader range of TV programming that reflects life across England especially in the North and Midlands.

Helen Thomas added: “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. We’ll take forward lessons from COVID-19 that will make us more agile and more in touch with communities, while also ensuring we’re as efficient as we can be. I’m confident we can evolve our local and regional services while improving our impact and better serving our audiences.”