Saturday, January 13, 2018


A grim, unrelenting week for those toiling in BBC News. I'm afraid I might add to it.

Former BBC newsman Roger Mosey has a column in the New Statesman. Roger might well have counselled some of those seeking the job of Director of News, and everyone knew that that interviews would require answers on how to make big savings. "The official figure is £80m over the next three years; and candidates for the top job were interviewed on the basis that up to £50m of savings could be needed in the next financial year."

It's difficult to put a scale on what cutting £50m in one year might mean. The spending on BBC News as a whole is never published in one lump; it takes money from the networks that carry its output, as well as getting some money direct from the Corporate Centre for News Online, BBC Parliament etc, so its hard for outsiders to calculate what the total budget at Fran Unsworth's disposal looks like.

These cross-trading complications are replicated internally in News, with the most expensive unit, Newsgathering, sucking up money from other news departments (and taking a hefty slice of the new Foreign Office funding).

Cuts in News are always job heavy - the vast majority of News spend is on salaries. £8m a year is soon to be providing 150 'free' reporters for local papers, putting their total cost per head - pensions, training, overheads, at around £53k each. Taking that as a median, you might save your £50m by cutting over 900 jobs, out of an effective full-time headcount around 6,700.  That's just over 13%.


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