Coronavirus: BBC boss tells staff he is suspending plans to cut news jobs to provide virus coverage

‘We’ve got to get on with doing the job that you’re doing really brilliantly,’ says Lord Hall

Adam Forrest
Wednesday 25 March 2020 16:42
Coronavirus in numbers

BBC boss Tony Hall has told employees he is suspending plans to axe 450 jobs across BBC News because of the demands involved in covering the coronavirus outbreak.

A BBC spokeswoman confirmed its director-general had told staff job cuts were now on hold – forced by the need to have as many journalists as possible reporting on the pandemic.

In January, the public broadcaster announced cuts to Radio 5 Live, Newsnight, the Victoria Derbyshire programme, the World Service’s World Update and other news output as part of strategy to save £80m by 2022.

However, Lord Hall told staff on Wednesday it would “inappropriate” to pursue the cost-cutting target while the service was stretched covering the current crisis, according to BBC media editor Amol Rajan.

“We’ve got to get on with doing the job that you’re doing really brilliantly,” the director-general said. “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.”

Mr Rajan suggested it would now be up to Lord Hall’s successor to try to implement the savings, since the current director-general leaves in the summer.

Last week the broadcaster announced it would delay the end of the free TV licence scheme for all over-75s by two months, pushing the move back from June to August.

Some BBC programmes, including Victoria Derbyshire and Politics Live, have been taken off air to focus on the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

The proposed cuts sparked anger earlier this year when the BBC explained it was part of an effort to “modernise” the newsroom.

Director of news Fran Unsworth told staff: “A modern newsroom needs to work smarter, we need to collaborate more and put the BBC news brand first because when we do we have so much more impact.”

Ms Unsworth was forced to apologise to host Victoria Derbyshire and her team for the way the news the current affairs show was to be axed leaked out before any official announcement.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) said the planned job cuts were “part of an existential threat to the BBC, and a direct consequence of the last disastrous, secret licence fee deal the BBC agreed with the government”.

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