‎BBC News to Cut 220 Jobs, Save $82 Million Per Year

5:00 AM PST 07/17/2014 by George Szalai
James Harding, director, news and current affairs at the BBC

"The challenge is how to make BBC News even better, despite having less money," says the unit's head James Harding.

LONDON – BBC News on Thursday said it would save $82 million (£48 million) per year by 2016/2017 by cutting 415 jobs.

Amid a restructuring, the news division of U.K. public broadcaster BBC also vowed to invest in its digital transformation and original journalism, which it predicted would create about 195 new positions, leading to a net loss of 220 jobs.‎

BBC News currently employs around 8,400 people worldwide, including around 5,000 journalists.

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One key element of the changes is a plan to "restructure the newsroom to create a new 24/7 digital news operation, providing live digital news to all audiences on all devices‎," BBC News said.

Beyond job cuts, cost savings will come through back office efficiencies, an integration with the BBC World Service radio operation to reduce costs in international bureaus, and "changes to the planning and commissioning of coverage."

The cost-cutting move completes a broader BBC News initiative dubbed the "Delivering Quality First" program. It was initiated after an agreement on the BBC licensing fee, which U.K. homes pay to finance the broadcaster, which included new coverage obligations despite an unchanged fee. The BBC said that effectively cut its budget by 26 percent.

The BBC will begin consulting the unions about the plans where appropriate.

Said James Harding, director, news and current affairs at the BBC: “Taking nearly £50 million out of a well-run organization that provides high-quality news services that are trusted, relied upon and used by millions of people is an extremely difficult undertaking. The challenge is how to make BBC News even better, despite having less money."

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He added: "We are living through a period of extraordinary change in news media. BBC News led the way first in radio, then in television and then online. Now, digital technologies offer us the opportunity to lead a fourth revolution in news."

Harding, the former editor of The Times of London, which is part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, concluded: "The BBC is one of the very best things about this country. It is trusted, needed and loved by the vast majority of people — and all they ask is that we keep on making it better. Delivering ever better value for money is part of that. Investing in getting and telling stories — in original, distinctive journalism — is part of that."

He emphasized that "the most important part, what will win it for us, is what we put onscreen, on air and online — the news.”

In the restructuring, the BBC newsroom and programs department will be reorganized into three parts: 24/7 news, including TV channels and BBC online; daily news programs and current affairs.

Among the newsroom savings proposed are an increased sharing of production teams and international programming by the BBC News Channel and BBC World News, a move to single-host shows on the BBC News Channel; a combination of the World Service and Radio newsrooms and a combination of the production teams for the World Tonight and Newshour programs.

Investments to strengthen original journalism will come through additional specialist editors and correspondents, the appointment of local political reporters and city correspondents and spending on social and mobile news and data journalism.

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