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
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.