MEDIA: Fear and loathing returns to the BBC

Fear of widescale redundancies is hanging over BBC journalists this week after the announcement of a major restructuring at the Corporation.

Fear of widescale redundancies is hanging over BBC journalists this week

after the announcement of a major restructuring at the Corporation.



Radio, and particularly the World Service, are expected to be the worst

hit by the restructuring. To be implemented by April next year, it is

aimed at reducing total costs throughout the Corporation by 30 per cent

to help it ‘meet the challenges of the digital age’.



The change, which creates six divisions, will separate broadcasting from

production and create a single national and international news operation

covering both radio and TV. A BBC spokeswoman said it was too early to

comment on how many jobs could be lost in the restructuring but refuted

press reports that radio, particularly regional coverage, will be worst

hit.



However, some BBC staff see the appointment of senior TV executives to

the chief executive positions of two of the newly-created divisions as a

clear sign that radio is being given a lower priority. Will Wyatt,

managing director of Network Television since 1991, will head BBC

Broadcast, which will schedule channels and commission services for

domestic and international audiences. Tony Hall, who will head BBC News,

also comes from a TV background. The other divisions are BBC Production,

BBC Worldwide, BBC Resources and the Corporate Centre.



The spokeswoman also refused to comment on the impact of the new

divisions on the World Service which comes under the BBC World division

of BBC Worldwide. However, Ariel, the BBC staff newspaper, says ‘he [BBC

director general John Birt] accepts that staff at World Service in

particular will be nervous about the changes.’



BBC Magazines, part of the publishing arm of BBC Worldwide, seems

unlikely to be affected by the restructuring. The publishing arm of

Worldwide accounts for around pounds 200 million of its pounds 305

million annual turnover with magazines accounting for about pounds 95

million of that.



It is not yet known what impact the changes will have on the

corporation’s large, but fragmented, PR machine, which comes under the

BBC Resources division.



The restructuring is expected to accelerate the multi-skilling strategy,

where journalists are trained in both TV and radio broadcasting skills.

The spokeswoman played down the impact of the creation of a centralised

news pool saying ‘it has been policy for some time to bring both teams

of radio and TV reporters under the one roof.’



BBC journalists said that senior management, many of whom are expected

to be hit by the changes, were taken by surprise by the announcement and

were unable to answer many of the questions put to them by staff.



‘We still don’t know what is going to happen or how it will affect us.

It’s the one question that even our senior managers are unable to

answer,’ said one reporter.



Birt claims BBC viewers will not notice any dramatic changes to

programmes. He said these will become obvious with the development of

extended TV channels with programme options alongside the continuing

schedule, a 24 hour TV news service, digital radio services with CD-

quality sound and pay-TV themed commercial channels.



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