BBC News suspends 450 job cuts to ensure Covid-19 coverage

BBC cameraman

BBC News has suspended plans to cut 450 jobs as it faces the demands of covering the coronavirus pandemic.

The job losses were announced in January and were part of a plan to complete a £80m savings target by 2022.

Outlets due to be hit include BBC Two's Newsnight, BBC Radio 5 Live and the World Service's World Update programme.

Director general Tony Hall gave staff the news on Wednesday, a week after the broadcaster delayed the end of the free TV licence scheme for all over-75s.

Lord Hall said "we're suspending the consultation on those saving plans".

He told staff: "We've got to get on with doing the job that you're doing really brilliantly.

"It would be inappropriate. We haven't got the resource to plough ahead with those plans at the moment, so we'll come back to that at some point.

"But for the moment we just want to make sure you are supported and you've got the resources to do the job that you and your colleagues are doing amazingly."

Some programmes, such as Politics Live and Victoria Derbyshire, have been taken off air to prioritise coronavirus coverage, and several radio networks are sharing news bulletins.

A planned modernisation of BBC News was due to contribute £40m of savings toward an overall target of £80m. The DG said it would be inappropriate to pursue this target while BBC News was so stretched in covering the pandemic.

While these savings will probably be implemented under Lord Hall's successor (he leaves at the end of the summer), the BBC is racking up a huge bill because of coronavirus. It has already said it will delay changes to free TV licences for the over-75s by two months (at least) - and absorb that cost, which is coincidentally around £80m (at least).

The next director general is going to inherit an even bigger financial black hole that she or he imagined.

However, negotiations with a government that had threatened to "whack" the BBC may be made marginally easier if the BBC - like other public service broadcasters - can prove its worth through this crisis.

Also on Wednesday, BBC Radio 1 announced changes to its schedule to ensure fewer presenters come in and out of the studios each day during the coronavirus crisis.

From Monday, four shows will be broadcast between 04:00 and 19:00 instead of five, with DJs like Adele Roberts, Greg James, Scott Mills and Nick Grimshaw having their slots extended.

Image caption,
Greg James (left) and Nick Grimshaw will be on air for longer

"In these testing times I've made the decision to simplify our schedule to ensure the health of our teams, presenters and the network itself," Radio 1's head of programmes Aled Haydn Jones said.

"I'm very proud of how the Radio 1 teams have been able to continue to entertain and inform our audience under such difficult conditions, and we'll be doing our best to carry on throughout the challenging weeks ahead."

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