The BBC is axing 415 news jobs in a “digital restructure” that will see dedicated Panorama reporters, including John Sweeney, departing the corporation. It’s a bit of a strange restructuring, as respected, news-breaking journalists are dropped, but something called “BBC Trending” receives more funding. Indeed, in the restructure, 195 new jobs are being created in an effort to “digitally transform” the Beeb.
This hasn’t gone down particularly well in the industry, according to one TV current affairs insider, who got in touch with this mole to give their take on the BBC’s director of news and current affairs James Harding’s decision:
It’s a total fucking outrage that a frontline, flagship show like Panorama is taking the brunt of the cuts, when the BBC is packed to the gills with worthless leeches.
Cut the slimy rip-off copy and paste websites, like BBC Trending – a worthless site that “reports” what’s trending on Twitter – it’s nothing but a crap BBC Buzzfeed anyway. Cut BBC echo chamber, that reports what other papers are writing, like a taxpayer-funded Huffington Post; or cut BBC Magazine – the bit of the BBC website full of middle-aged men writing middle-of-the-road features that an airline in-flight brochure would be ashamed of. Cut BBC Capital, a poor man’s arse-kissing City AM clone so embarrassingly fawning to business you can’t even read it in the UK.
Cut the commissioners who splash the budget expressly earmarked for documentaries on series like the Great British Bake Off. A fine show, no doubt, but should it be in the docs budget? If it’s a choice between cake and Panorama, the cake should get cut first.
That’s just the day-to-day alternate programme-making and new-media cuts you could make. You could cut the 200 press officers and no one would notice – simultaneously demonstrating their total incompetence and irrelevance in one go. You could cut one of the four external PR agencies, but at least they might actually get some press coverage for their own sacking.
You could cut the legion of incompetent middle managers in worthless departments no one even knows exists like BBC buildings or BBC vision. This back office is where the cash is really burned in orgiastic bonfires, at endless meetings about meetings and in hundreds of decks of meaningless jargon-ridden PowerPoint slides.
If you look closely at what the BBC spends its money on the problem is clear. Depending on how you classify BBC Worldwide, the overall income is around £4.5bn, of which more than a billion – 25 per cent – goes on training, marketing, property, finance and policy, none of which is directly about making programmes.
Of the remaining three-quarters, I estimate that something like 40 per cent goes on administration, which means that less than half of the BBC’s money is spent on actual broadcasting or new media, and it might be considerably less. This is a farce. Keeping the plump and useless back-office crawlers while sacking the best reporters and producers seems like the best possible way to get the licence fee slashed in record time. Being a professional cynic, maybe that’s why it’s being done.