Union calls for a moratorium on cuts that have already taken 9,000 jobs


The NUJ has called for an end to cuts at the BBC, saying the Newsnight crisis is a wake-up call to an assault on frontline journalism that has cost 9,000 jobs since 2004.

General secretary Michelle Stanistreet says cuts are threatening the quality of journalism not only at flagship programmes such as Newsnight, which has had its budget slashed by 50% in real terms over the past five years, but in local radio and television as well as the World Service.

She said: “With fewer journalists, many employed on a casual basis, it means there is no time for that extra telephone all, no time to double-check the facts, no time to reflect properly before a programme goes out.

“The current re-grading proposals could see a situation where someone can be paid the minimum of £15,000 and end up in charge of a sensitive political report, or even output a whole programme and then get blamed when it goes wrong.

“It’s testament to the great journalists working at the BBC that they manage, often through sheer goodwill and professional commitment, to get the job done despite staff shortages and dwindling resources. But the pressure this puts on journalists and journalism is undeniable.”

Calling on BBC chair Lord Patten to take a long hard look at what has happened, Michelle Stanistreet urged him to take on a director general who would fight for quality journalism and stop the cuts.

She said: “There must be a moratorium on these cuts. This should be a wake-up call top the BBC – they need to take the opportunity to halt the assault on frontline journalism and put in place measures to shore up news and current affairs before it is too late.”

The NUJ believes the backdrop to the Newsnight crisis is the remorseless cost-cutting across the BBC that started in 2004. Since then 9,000 jobs have gone, including 140 in BBC news this year alone – the eighth consecutive year of cuts.

Michelle Stanistreet said: “Mark Thompson’s decision, behind closed doors, to agree to a licence fee freeze until 2017 and to take on an extra £340 million in spending commitments, including the funding of the World Service, local TV and the rollout of fast broadband, was a disaster for the BBC.

“This has been compounded by the way BBC senior executives have implemented the cuts. They have chosen to cut staffing and budgets in frontline journalism; news has been particularly badly hit. Rather than hack away at the fleshy layers of management, they have chosen to cut at the sharp end and inevitably that will make it harder for quality, thorough journalism to flourish.”

* NUJ members at Newsnight have asked the NUJ to make clear they are appalled at what happened, and that the overwhelming majority of those who work there had no involvement with the story, and were not consulted about it before broadcast.

They are determined to go on doing their jobs and to support the BBC management in its effort to go on delivering the Corporation’s world class journalism.

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