Newsnight and Today programme face cuts after Victoria Derbyshire show axed

BBC News has to make savings of £80m to help pay for free TV licences for over-75s

Matt Drake
Saturday 25 January 2020 11:34
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Victoria Derbyshire says 'we don't give up' after learning her show is being axed

Flagship BBC news programmes such as Newsnight and Radio 4’s Today programme are facing major cuts as the broadcaster looks to make further savings after axing Victoria Derbyshire’s BBC2 show, it has been reported.

The corporation is set to announce plans next week for savings in its news divisions of about £40m, in a move that is likely to hit some of its biggest programmes, according to The Guardian. Newsnight will be asked to make fewer films and BBC radio will be expected to share resources and material across its bulletins at different stations.

The changes are being proposed because BBC news has to cut £80m – as part of total savings of £800m across the corporation – to help pay for TV licences for the over-75s.

Half of that amount has already been saved by such measures as axing BBC1 politics show This Week. Speaking last year, however, the director of news and current affairs, Fran Unsworth, told Television magazine that the other half of the savings will be “even more noticeable”.

The Independent has contacted the BBC, but they have refused to comment on the reports.

News of the proposed cuts comes after it was announced that the Victoria Derbyshire show will be taken off the air. The presenter said she was “absolutely devastated” at the plan, having first found about it by reading a newspaper article.

Ms Derbyshire spoke out as Ms Unsworth told staff it had “not been an easy decision”. Speaking to The Guardian, a former senior BBC executive said the corporation is in an impossible position, adding: “People want it to be smaller but they also want to keep the bits they like.

“The scale of the cuts being asked now means that the strategy of salami-slicing budgets is no longer enough. Whole programmes and services have to go. This is the cost of delivering free TV licences to over-75s.”

Hours after going on air to present her show, Ms Derbyshire tweeted: “Absolutely devastated at the plan to end our programme (which I first learned about in yesterday’s Times).

“I’m unbelievably proud of what our team and our show have achieved in under five years: breaking tonnes of original stories (which we were asked to do); attracting a working-class, young, diverse audience that BBC radio & TV news progs just don’t reach (which we were asked to do); and smashing the digital figures (which we were asked to do).”

The shadow culture secretary, Tracy Brabin, has written a letter to the BBC director-general, Tony Hall, asking him to reconsider pulling Ms Derbyshire’s programme.

In the letter, which Ms Brabin published on Twitter, she said: “Victoria Derbyshire herself is an incredible journalist and I am certain that she has a very bright broadcasting future in front of her regardless of what happens with the show in the coming months.

“I know that a show like this will have a dedicated and talented team working behind the scenes, who are probably predominately freelancers. It’s of the utmost importance that these workers are treated with dignity in this process – and that they did not find out that their role may be in jeopardy via social media.

“However, the Victoria Derbyshire show itself is brave and courageous journalism at its very best. It seeks out the stories that are so rarely covered elsewhere and broadcasts them in a format that is popular with and accessible to millions.

“It so often brings attention to the issues that MPs find in their surgeries but wouldn’t find their way into the mainstream press without it.”

A petition demanding that the BBC reverse its decision to axe the Victoria Derbyshire show has reached more than 16,700 signatures.

The change.org campaign, launched on Wednesday by Katie Kendrick, “urgently” calls on the BBC to reconsider its decision. By Saturday morning, the petition had more than 14,000 signatures.

The show began in 2015 and broadcasts live on BBC2 and the BBC news channel every weekday from 10am.

Additional reporting by agencies

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