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BBC plans news savings and digital transformation

July 18, 2014

BBC News has outlined plans to save £48 million a year across the BBC News Group by 2016/17, along with proposals to restructure the division and to invest in digital transformation and original journalism.

The savings will complete the Delivering Quality First (DQF) programme for BBC News. DQF was initiated after a licence fee settlement which required the BBC to take on hundreds of millions of pounds in new obligations whilst freezing the licence fee, effectively reducing the BBC’s budget by 26 per cent by the end of the licence fee period.

The proposals are expected to lead to 415 what the BBC describes as “post closures” – which will be offset by an estimated 195 new roles being created through reinvestment, meaning a net reduction of around 220 posts.
The BBC will now begin consultation with staff and the joint unions over these proposals, where appropriate.

According to the BBC the proposed changes are designed to:
– Ensure the BBC can deliver even more distinctive, original journalism
– Restructure the newsroom to create a new 24/7 digital news operation, providing live digital news to all audiences on all devices
– Complete the integration of network news with the World Service and local and regional newsrooms

James Harding, Director, News and Current Affairs, said that 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 was an extremely difficult undertaking.

“The challenge is how to make BBC News even better, despite having less money. We are living through a period of extraordinary change in news media. BBC News led the way first in radio, then in television and then online. Now, digital technologies offer us the opportunity to lead a fourth revolution in news. So, as well as setting out our savings plan this morning, we are also announcing proposals to restructure news and target investments in our future – in the digital transformation of BBC News, in our own original and distinctive journalism, in making this a better place to work,” he advised.

“The BBC is one of the very best things about this country. It is trusted, needed and loved by the vast majority of people – and all they ask is that we keep on making it better. Delivering ever better value for money is part of that. Investing in getting and telling stories – in original, distinctive journalism – is part of that. And reorienting ourselves to lead the world of news into a digital future is part of that too. But it’s only a part: the most important part, what will win it for us, is what we put on screen, on air and online – the news,” he stated.

Summary of main potential changes and savings

Restructure – the Newsroom and Programmes Department will be reorganised into three operations – 24/7 News, including TV new channels and BBC online, providing live and digital news; Daily News Programmes; and Current Affairs.

Division-wide savings have been identified through streamlining daily activity and back office efficiencies; integrating with World Service to reduce costs in international bureaux; changes to the planning and commissioning of coverage; and back office savings through integration of World Service and News management.

Newsroom – Proposals include increased sharing of production teams and international programming by the BBC News Channel and BBC World News; a move to single-headed presentation on the BBC News Channel; combining the World Service and Radio newsrooms, combining production teams for the World Tonight and Newshour programmes.

Programmes Department – The main savings proposed arise from production changes to Panorama, Newsnight and Newsbeat; a reduction in the TV current affairs budget; closer working between Current Affairs and the daily Radio 4 news programmes; streamlining of planning.

Newsgathering – Plans are for a reshaped Newsgathering operation, involving smaller and more agile reporting teams. The World Affairs Unit, based in London, will become a smaller specialised hub; a single general reporting team is proposed; and a number of correspondent and production posts are expected to close.

World Service – We are increasing the World Service Budget from £245 million this year to around £250 million by 2016/17. We will recreate the position of Controller, World Service English, to lead World Service radio editorially. We will make savings to reinvest in new languages TV and digital priorities and manage inflation, in line with the ‘invest to innovate’ strategy announced earlier this year.

Global News Limited – GNL, which runs the commercial BBC World News channel and, will make savings to remain competitive in an increasingly complex commercial market whilst reinvesting in Newsgathering and the news channels over the next two years.

English Regions – The bulk of savings in English Regions have already been achieved but these proposals change priorities to fund the development of Local Live, a short update service for regional websites.


The savings programme is also designed to find £12 million to invest in digital platforms in the UK and in enhancing original journalism, over the period of DQF.

The BBC is investing £8 million to strengthen its original journalism through creating additional specialist editors and correspondent roles, and appointing local political reporters and city correspondents. Some of this investment has already started.

The BBC intends to invest £4 million in social and mobile news, data journalism, online analysis and an enhanced News Labs team.

In World Service it will invest £13 million in digital journalism and the development of further language TV services, over the next three years.

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