The BBC have confirmed that 650 jobs at the World Service are to go over the next three years, with around 480 of those lost in the next 12 months.
The corporation says the changes announced – which include closing five language services and the shutting down of the medium wave broadcasts to the UK and Europe – will see an audience drop of more than 30 million.
The World Service has been set a target of making savings of 16 percent, by the Government in its spending review. The proposals drawn up will save £46m in the service by April 2014 when the stations transfer to being funded as part of the TV licence fee in the UK.
[b]The big changes[/b]
- Five full language services will close – Albanian, Macedonian, Portuguese for Africa and Serbian languages; as well as the English for the Caribbean regional service
- BBC World Service will cease all radio programming – focusing instead, as appropriate, on online, mobile and television content and distribution – in the following languages: Azeri, Mandarin Chinese (Cantonese radio programming continues), Russian (save for some programmes which will be distributed online only), Spanish for Cuba, Turkish, Vietnamese, and Ukrainian.
- English language short wave and medium wave broadcasts to Russia and the Former Soviet Union are planned to end. The 648KHz medium wave service covering Western Europe and south-east England will end in March 2011. Listeners in the UK will be able to continue to listen on DAB, digital television and online. Those in Europe can continue to listen online or direct to home free-to-air satellite via Hotbird and UK Astra. By March 2014, short wave broadcasts of the English service could be reduced to two hours per day in Africa and Asia. Short wave broadcasts in all languages other than English are expected to end by March 2014 with the exception of a small number of "lifeline" services such as Burmese and Somali.
- There will be a new schedule for World Service English language programming – a focus on four daily news titles (BBC Newshour, BBC World Today, BBC World Briefing, and BBC World Have Your Say); and a new morning programme for Africa. There will be a new daily edition of From Our Own Correspondent; and an expansion of the interactive World Have Your Say programme.
- There will be a reduction from seven to five daily pre-recorded "non-news" programmes on the English service. This includes the loss of one of the four weekly documentary strands. Some programmes will be shortened. Titles such as Politics UK, Europe Today, World Of Music, Something Understood, Letter From…, and Crossing Continents will all close. There will also be the loss of some correspondent posts.
BBC Global News Director Peter Horrocks said: "This is a painful day for BBC World Service and the 180 million people around the world who rely on the BBC's global news services every week. We are making cuts in services that we would rather not be making. But the scale of the cut in BBC World Service's Grant-in-Aid funding is such that we couldn't cope with this by efficiencies alone.
"What won't change is the BBC's aim to continue to be the world's best known and most trusted provider of high quality impartial and editorially independent international news. We will continue to bring the BBC's expertise, perspectives and content to the largest worldwide audience, which will reflect well on Britain and its people."
Additional savings will be made through the move from Bush House to Broadcasting House next year. Off-air functions at the service, such as finance, HR, strategy and marketing will face cuts averaging a third of current spend levels.
All the changes have been approved by the BBC Trust, the BBC Executive and, in relation to closure of services, The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, William Hague, as he is required to do under the terms of the BBC's agreement with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
BBC Trust Chairman Sir Michael Lyons said: "Today is a difficult day for the World Service, which we want to ensure continues to be the most authoritative, quality broadcaster of news and information around the world. But we have no choice other than to live within the reduced Government grant. Our aim is to help the World Service continue to support the BBC's international role by ensuring it adapts to the changing needs of its audience within a more constrained public spending environment. As part of that the Trust has approved the closure of five language services."
480 posts are to be declared redundant in the next 12 months. By the time the BBC World Service moves in to the licence fee in 2014/15 bosses anticipate the number of proposed closures to reach 650. Some of these closures may be offset by new posts being created.
Of the 480 jobs going this year, 26 are currently vacant. The World Service is also creating 21 new posts, so the number of staff expected to lose is actually around 433. This represents around 18 percent of the total staff of 2,400 in the service.