BBC Newsroom Massive Job Losses Are Sad, But Inevitable

It is difficult to know how to react to the sad news that 450 journalism roles are to be lost at the BBC. With such a large number of posts going, the headlines are suggesting that flagship programmes, such as "Newsnight" on television and BBC Radio 4's "Today" programme will be suffering from cuts and so potentially scaling back what they can cover.

You would imagine that this would be easy to condemn, and it's true that nobody is celebrating the loss of so many jobs. The rub is, a lot of what the corporation is talking about makes sense. Much of what it is suggesting is how other news organisations are reorganising their newsrooms.

The nub of the issue is that, to the guys at the top, it appears the BBC newsroom is overstaffed because it has evolved around radio programmes, television shows and more recently, online reporting.

It does not take a genius to figure out that if each show has its own bunch of reporters, there is a very real chance that effort will be duplicated on a daily basis, and at scale. Do the BBC "Breakfast," "News at One," "News at Six," "10 O'clock News" and "Newsnight" bulletins all need separate fully-staffed news teams?

At the same time, do the separate radio stations need the same, and do digital teams need so many people working on stories that could be pooled?

I have to be honest -- I've been part of the press pack, and I've always wondered when the BBC was going to realise it really doesn't need to send out so many journalists from so many different channels and shows. Can't one person cover interest rates being kept where they are, cut or increased? Does it really take each news bulletin and various radio programmes to each send staff to cover the news and then broadcast their own story?

The obvious answer is no -- not in a time when the BBC is being forced to fund the provision of free tv licences to people aged 75 and over.

It's a massive financial obligation that has set the chiefs looking for GBP800m of savings, GBP80m of which are having to come out of BBC News in the next handful of years. Hence, we have 450 jobs being axed.

Having said that, there are flagship programmes that many journalists would probably agree need staffing with dedicated teams. "Radio 5 Live" needs reporters out in the field reporting, as the channel suggests, live from scenes.

You could also say that "Newsnight" needs dedicated reporters not following the tide but instead offering interesting takes that set the news agenda. Speaking of which, Radio 4's "Today" programme could be said to do the same each morning for the day ahead.

However, there is nothing to say they can't pool resources across the BBC more and that their output should not be shared throughout the network to save on duplication of effort.

The loss of 450 jobs is a shock and the result of the BBC organising staff around stories and "beats" rather than shows and programmes. It is not entirely unexpected, however.

Pooled and shared newsrooms are an accepted way of life now for news organisation that used to have different teams for daily, weekend, Sunday and online teams but now have a single entity.

The BBC is just falling in line here and offering better value for licence fee payers. Yes, it's sad -- and the National Union of Journalists is right in saying so. The thing is, it's just the direction of travel for modern newsrooms. It was inevitable and the cost-cutting forced on the corporation has just speeded up the decision. 

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