BBC to cut hundreds of jobs at World Service
The BBC says its international services need to make savings of £28.5 million ($31 million) as part of wider reductions of £500 million.
Nearly 400 staff at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) World Service will lose their jobs as part of a cost-cutting program and move to digital platforms, the broadcaster announced on Thursday.
The BBC, which marks its centenary next month, said its international services needed to make savings of £28.5 million ($31 million) as part of wider reductions of £500 million, which unions blamed on the United Kingdom government.
In July, the broadcaster detailed plans to merge BBC World News television and its domestic UK equivalent into a single channel to launch in April next year.
BBC World Service -- one of the UK's most recognizable global brands -- currently operates in 41 languages around the world with a weekly audience of some 364 million people.
But the corporation explained that audience habits were changing and more people were accessing news online, which along with a freeze on BBC funding and increased operating costs meant a move to "digital-first" made financial sense.
"Today's proposals entail a net total of around 382 post closures," the public service broadcaster said in an online statement.
Eleven language services -- Azerbaijani, Brasil, Marathi, Mundo, Punjabi, Russian, Serbian, Sinhala, Thai, Turkish, and Vietnamese -- are already digital only.
Under the restructuring plans, they will be joined by seven more: Chinese, Gujarati, Igbo, Indonesian, Pidgin, Urdu, and Yoruba.
Radio services in Arabic, Persian, Kyrgyz, Hindi, Bengali, Chinese, Indonesian, Tamil, and Urdu will stop if the proposals are approved by staff and unions.
The broadcaster pointed out that no language services will close, although some production will move out of London and schedules would change.
BBC World Service director Liliane Landor said there was a "compelling case" for expanding digital services, as audiences had more than doubled since 2018.
"The way audiences are accessing news and content is changing and the challenge of reaching and engaging people around the world with quality, trusted journalism is growing," Landor indicated.
Workers hit by the government's poor decisions
On her part, the head of the broadcasting union Bectu, Philippa Childs, expressed the union's disappointment at the proposed changes.
"While we recognize the BBC must adapt to meet the challenges of a changing media landscape, once again it is workers who are hit by the government's poorly judged political decisions," she considered.
Childs highlighted that the government's freezing of the license fee which pays for BBC World Service had created the funding squeeze and the need for cuts.
Bectu will push for staff to be redeployed where possible and to ensure it "mitigates the needs for any compulsory redundancies," she said.
BBC World Service is funded out of the UK license fee -- currently £159 for a color TV and payable by every household with a television set.
The UK government announced a freeze on the license fee in January, in what was seen by critics as an attempt to save the then-prime minister Boris Johnson's job.
At the time, Johnson was facing mounting claims of wrongdoing in office, which ultimately forced him to resign.
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