The NUJ has warned the BBC is risking irreparable damage to “the best journalism in the world” by slashing 2,000 jobs.
BBC management said the BBC provides “the best journalism in the world” but full details of the cuts are still to emerge as local managers meet with staff across the UK to explain the proposals in detail.
NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “This is a watershed moment in BBC history. We are stunned that BBC news, BBC radio and quality journalism have received a disproportionate hit today. The cuts risk irreparable damage to the BBC and will inevitably compromise quality journalism and programming.
The cuts announcement is a direct result of the licence fee settlement clinched behind closed doors last autumn between the coalition government and BBC management. The deal froze the licence fee until 2017 and introduced new funding responsibilities for the BBC including the World Service, S4C, BBC Monitoring, local TV and broadband.
Today’s announcement represents a 20% cut over 5 years – this is in addition to the 7,000 jobs already lost at the BBC since 2004.
As part of the programme of cuts there will be reductions to business coverage, investigative journalism and foreign news. Between 700-800 jobs will be lost in BBC News. Hundreds of jobs are also at risk in Scotland and Wales. The proposals outline 20% cuts to 5Live news and plans to reduce the number of specialist reporters on local radio. Other areas under attack include regional current affairs programmes and the Asian Network.
Conditions of staff have also been severely hit – plans include cuts to staff allowances, redundancy terms and re-grading and moves towards statutory redundancy consultation periods and performance related pay. New staff will also be expected to work for substantially lower salaries with worse terms and conditions at work. This will create a two-tier workforce at the BBC.
The plans for staff signal a race to the bottom in terms of working standards for people employed in the media and creative industries.
Michelle Stanistreet said: “The proposals represent an attack on all staff at the BBC and if the plans are implemented they will create a two-tier workforce. They signal a race to the bottom in terms of standards for staff employed at the BBC.
“The cuts will also go way beyond the 2,000 job losses announced today – the BBC is the driver of the UK’s creative industries and many small independent companies will face an uncertain future as a result. Actors, musicians and writers will also be victims as the reverberations are felt amongst the creative and media industries.
“Currently the BBC spans the world with well-respected, accurate and reliable information and news. Public service broadcasting is a bench mark for a democratic society and informed citizenship. NUJ members are committed to defending jobs and quality journalism at the BBC and we are asking readers, listeners and viewers to join with us in this battle.”
Meanwhile, Unite blamed the cuts indirectly on the lobbying of the Murdoch empire over the years.
Unite regional officer, Mike Eatwell said: “The decision to hold the licence fee for six years was a political one forced on the BBC by a Conservative Prime Minister.
“This followed extensive lobbying by the Murdoch empire to undermine one of our most respected national assets in order to assist that organisation’s plans for Sky television. Our members and those of the other unions will now be asked to pay the price.
“The announcement today by the BBC is bad news for many of our members who work at the BBC and its associated operations. We will vigorously defend the interests of our members”.