BBC News to axe 415 jobs

The broadcaster hopes to save £48 million a year by 2016/17

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The Independent Online

The BBC has announced plans to cut 415 jobs from its news department, as the broadcaster attempts to save £800 million after the licence fee was frozen in 2010.

The cuts will be offset by around 195 new roles, meaning a net reduction of 220 jobs, with hopes of saving £48 million a year by 2016/17.

James Harding, the BBC's director of news, gave details of the cuts to a staff meeting in London, saying: “Taking nearly £50 million out of a well-run organisation 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."

But Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), criticised the announcement.

She said: "They plan to get rid of hundreds of staff - using licence fee-payers' money to cover the redundancy pay-outs - and then immediately hire in a load more. You couldn't make it up."

Gerry Morrissey, general secretary of the technicians' union Bectu, said he understood the posts would go before any of the new jobs were filled.

He warned of industrial action if the BBC went ahead with cutting the jobs first.

Journalists and technicians are already going on strike for 12 hours next Wednesday, to coincide with the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, in a row over pay.

Plans were also announced to reduce the TV current affairs budget and a "reshaped" newsgathering operation, including smaller and more "agile" reporting teams.

The World Service budget will be increased by £5 million to £250 million by 2016/17.

The BBC said £12 million will be invested in digital platforms, and £8 million on creating additional specialist editors and correspondents.

In an email to staff Mr Harding said: "We are going to go through a very testing time of uncertainty and change. Its consequences will be felt by audiences too: you cannot take tens of millions of pounds out of a news organisation that delivers so much to so many people every minute of the day and expect those losses to go unseen, unheard and unnoticed."

There will 79 post closures in the newsroom, saving more than £11 million, and around 53 cuts in newsgathering, saving £6.1 million.

The BBC added there will be two posts lost in political programmes amongst production staff, and 22 in programmes for 2015/16, with a further five the following year.

Additional reporting by Press Association