DQF: Full effect on BBC news programmes

Details have been revealed about how the BBC’s Delivering Quality First cuts will affect news programmes in BBC network radio.

In an email to staff, Deputy Director of News and Head of News Programmes Steve Mitchell has set out how budget cuts and reductions in staff will affect individual radio stations and programmes.

At 5 Live, the number of producers will be cut without changes to the schedule but overnight programmes may be changed because of the reductions. The number of dedicated 5 Live reporters and regional journalists will be halved to 8 and there will be a review of the number of studio managers on the network.

Radio 4 will lose 3 dedicated reporters with a further 3 news programme posts also made redundant.

At Radio 1 and 1Xtra, 19 of the current 53 news staff will go, leaving a team of 34 to produce news output for both stations by April 2013.

And the Asian Network will make 15 posts redundant, with the newsroom for the service also relocating from Leicester to London.

You can read the main DQF email to staff from Mark Thompson here and our report on what DQF means for radio here.

Here’s the email from Steve Mitchell in full…


You will have already heard from Mark Thompson about the impact of DQF for the BBC as a whole and from Helen Boaden about the headline changes within News.

I want to give you an understanding of the impact within the Programmes Department as a whole. There are few areas that aren’t affected and if you are in an area where there are proposed changes, your editor will talk to you about the proposals in detail.

It’s important to say at the outset that the objectives of the department will remain the same after DQF as they were before, namely:
• giving context to the main news agenda and moving that agenda forward with interviews and reporting.
• making that agenda accessible to a variety of different and sometimes difficult to reach audiences.
• delivering original journalism outside the main news agenda.

The funding for our department comes from a variety of sources, directly from BBC News, from Audio and Music, from BBC North, from Vision and from the Grant in Aid and BBC World budgets. This complexity means DQF will affect different programmes in different ways but overall the money we have to spend will be coming down by just under six million pounds and this is bound to have an impact. Each programme area has decided the best way to absorb the reduction in its budget. In some areas we will make savings by stopping doing things, in others programme budgets and staffing will be cut and we will do more sharing of content and co-commissioning .What follows is an outline of our proposals area by area:

On Five Live our funding comes from BBC North who by 2014 need to reduce the spend on News by about £2m annually. To achieve this we propose:

• Losing 4 producer posts by April 2013 from daytime and evening news programmes. We hope to be able to achieve this saving without changing the schedule of the main news programmes.
• Reducing production effort overnight by up to 5 posts by April 2014. We will need to revise the editorial proposition and overnight schedule to achieve this.
• Reducing the number and spread of 5 Live’s dedicated reporters and regional journalists from 17 (one of which is vacant) to the full time equivalent of 8 by April 2013. Five current 5 live dedicated roles will continue, one new reporter role dedicated to 5 live will be created and there will be four new reporting roles, jointly funded by BBC Newsgathering and 5 Live.
• the decommissioning of 5 Live Investigates in its current form by April 2013. This programme is produced by Radio Current Affairs who will be looking at other ways of delivering current affairs content to 5 Live at reduced cost.
• After these and other changes on 5 Live we will review the number of Studio managers required in Salford dedicated to 5 Live programmes.

We hope to achieve these savings without compulsory redundancies for any permanent 5 Live staff who are currently moving to Salford.

On Radio 4 daily sequences (Today, WATO, TW2, PM, iPM, BH, World Tonight) Earlier this year the Americana programme closed as part of helping Radio Four meet its savings target. To achieve their own DQF savings of about 5 per cent the R4 sequences propose looking at reducing their planning and reporter effort.
Under these proposals the current Radio Four reporter headcount will come down from 16 to 13 but the programmes will seek to mitigate the impact of the reduced reporter effort by working closely with Newsnight on the more effective use of reporters across both areas. In addition we will put in place new ways of working across the R4 sequence programmes at Band 10 level that will allow us to close one post; one producer post will close as a result of more integrated planning and one BA post will close through new ways of working. So, in total, we propose closing 6 posts by April 2013.
On Newsnight the DQF target is a reduction of about 9 per cent of the total budget, by April 2013. The proposal is to close 3 out of 12 dedicated reporter posts (one of which is vacant) with a proportionate reduction in the filming budget, editing budget, camera crew costs and Newsnight Library costs.
As well as working with the Radio Four Sequences on the better use of reporters across all programmes Newsnight will also seek to lessen the impact of these changes through joint commissions with TV and Radio Current Affairs.

In addition both Newsnight and the Radio Four Sequences are proposing further savings by ending full co-presentations at the Party Conferences

Funding for the news services on Radio 1 and 1Xtra comes from BBC News for Radio 1 and from Audio and Music for 1Xtra. Under DQF A&M are reducing their funding by 90 per cent but there will be no cut in News funding. As a result we will no longer be able to provide separate and dedicated news services to each network except into the respective Breakfast programmes. We propose amalgamating the production teams into a joint headcount of 34, ie. closing 19 posts from the current total of 53 which we aim to achieve by April 2013.

The funding for the news service on the Asian Network comes from Audio and Music. You will recall that after a review last year it was decided that the best option going forward would be for the Asian Network to remain as a national radio service but at a reduced cost and with the objective of delivering larger audiences.
Those proposals have now become part of the DQF process and as a result the funding of the Asian Network news service will be cut by about 50 per cent. As a result it is proposed that 15 posts will close by April 2013 and the intention is to move the newsroom from Leicester to London where they will be located on the 8th floor of W1 with other Asian Network programmes. The “Nihal phone-in” and “Asian Network Reports” programmes will continue though with reduced staffing and resources, and there will be fewer bespoke news bulletins.
Separately there will a reinvestment of £250k for the delivery of original Asian news content across the BBC. We anticipate this will mean the creation of four new multi-platform reporter posts in locations still to be decided. All plans for the Asian Network need to be approved by the Trust. This is because they involve changes in the station’s Service License. There is a Service Licence Review that is going on now that will address these issues. But the changes might even require a Public Value Test on top of that review. So it will be some months before we know for sure what the final shape of the Asian Network is.

Radio Current Affairs output on Radio Four is jointly funded by Audio and Music and BBC News. DQF will mean a cut in funding of about £500K . It is proposed that this will be delivered by:
• not recommissioning Taking a Stand, and decommissioning Beyond Westminster, and some editions of strand programmes such as Law in Action and The Report. These changes will involve the closure of 3 to 4 posts.
• Further savings of about through a mixture of a staff restructuring, more co-commissioning and reversioning, and a reduction in the cash and freelance budgets. These proposals will involve a further four post closures.
• As mentioned earlier, 5 Live plans to decommission 5 Live Investigates in its present form. Radio Current Affairs will explore with 5 Live how to continue delivering some current affairs content into daily news strands, but the decision to decommission the programme could involve a further four post closures.

TV Current Affairs: There are no plans to reduce the output on BBC 1 (including Panorama) and BBC 3 but there will be a reduction of 9 hours in programming on BBC2 where the main focus of TVCA output will be 12 hours of This World and a range of landmark short series. The cut is scheduled for April 2013. No post closures are anticipated as a result of these programme cuts because the current restructuring process will leave the TVCA department able to absorb the reduction.

As part of the reinvestment of some of the money saved in DQF there is to be an incremental increase in the funding set aside for investigations and this will clearly benefit the journalism of the Programmes Department.

Impact/Interactive Team: The Programmes Department currently has two teams working predominantly to exploit the original journalism of the department: an “Interactive” team managing, among other things, Online versioning of broadcast content, and another, the existing “Impact” team, co-ordinating the planning and the reversioning of radio or TV output to ensure multi platform presence. Under the News Online DQF target of just under 12 per cent the Programmes Department is being asked to lose 4 posts To achieve these savings we propose to review the operations of both teams and bring them together into a single, multi-skilled operation helping to deliver more impact for the best content from across the Department. In addition the funding for the “ Our World “ programme, whose producers work closely with the Impact team, is under review following the proposed changes to the News Channel. We will explore alternative funding options to try to ensure the strand continues – two posts are potentially at risk though, again, these will form part of the review.

Overall these proposals suggest that as a result of DQF we might need to close around 80 posts in this Department during the next few years. This is a hard message but we do have to adjust to having less money to spend and it is a simple fact that when we cut budgets it has an immediate knock on for staffing because people make up such a large proportion of our costs.
We also need to remember that the current efficiency programme has involved job losses and that for many people in TV Current Affairs and on our 5 Live programmes their jobs are currently under threat because of restructuring and the move to Salford.
So closing even more posts through DQF in coming years will be hard though we will of course be seeking volunteers and we have a tried and tested system of redeployment in place. I also want to stress that these are at present only outline proposals, we need to do much more work on the detail and your Editors will be talking to you about what the next steps will be in each area. .

Finally there are two significant organisational changes in the Programmes Department.

The 100 or so World Service programmes staff responsible for programmes such as Newshour and The World Today will move into the Newsroom Department alongside their colleagues from the Bush House Newsroom. This means all daily Global News production, TV, Radio and Online will be in a single Department and that should help deliver the Global strategy for a co-ordinated TV, Radio and Online offering to international audiences.

This will not mean an end to collaboration between daily current affairs in World Service and UK network news. The World Today and Newshour teams will still be sitting alongside the Today Programme and the Radio Four Sequences in W1 and collaboration and co-commissioning between them will be much easier as a result of their proximity and of the creation of a single Newsgathering planning operation in the new building.

The Bush House team who make long form radio current affairs will remain in the Programmes Department and join colleagues in Nicola Meyrick’s Radio Current Affairs Department working on similar output.

Incidentally Andrew Whitehead is sharing his plans for the next year of savings (FY 2012/2013) in his area today; these are part of the ongoing process of savings which stem from the cut in the Grant In Aid Budget as part of the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review.

In September next year, the team of Radio Studio Managers and Studio Directors working under Tim Doucy on domestic and English Language daily radio news will leave the Programmes Department to join studio manager colleagues supporting Language Services in a new Production Operations Department working across all News output in W1. This is part of changing the way we organise ourselves under the banner of “One BBC News” and begin to take advantage of the move into the new building.

There are lots of changes involved here, in all areas of the Department. This is inevitable given Licence Fee settlement, the Comprehensive Spending Review and the moves into Salford and West One, but as I said at the beginning, our purposes remain the same, and we will still have some £80 million pounds a year of public money to spend on some of the most important journalism the BBC does.

Steve Mitchell
6 October 2011

Posted on Thursday, October 6th, 2011 at 4:34 pm by RadioToday UK

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