BBC World Service proposes 382 post closures as part of savings


The BBC is proposing to close about 382 posts at the World Service as it tries to make £28.5m in annual savings for its international services.

Radio broadcasts in 10 languages including Arabic, Persian, Chinese and Bengali will cease, the BBC said.

Although no language services will close, many will move online, to “increase impact with audiences”.

The BBC is also making wider annual savings of £500m, with CBBC and BBC Four also scheduled to move online.

In January former Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries announced the licence fee would be frozen at £159 for two years.

That, combined with high inflation and soaring costs “have led to tough choices,” the corporation said.

It added that the plans for the World Service support its strategy to create a “modern, digital-led and streamlined organisation”.

The other radio services that will end are Kyrgyz, Uzbek, Hindi, Indonesian, Tamil, and Urdu.

The languages that will become online-only are Chinese, Gujarati, Igbo, Indonesian, Pidgin, Urdu, and Yoruba.

The World Service is an international multimedia broadcaster, delivering a wide range of language and regional services on radio, TV, and digital. It currently reaches 364 million people a week – about half of whom access it online.

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No language services will close, and the World Service will still “serve audiences during moments of jeopardy”, ensuring that people in countries including Russia, Ukraine and Afghanistan will still be able to access the BBC’s news services.

World Service English will also continue to provide around-the-clock news, available globally, and the corporation said it would announce new scheduling, programmes and podcasts at a later date.

Liliane Landor, the World Service’s director, said: “The role of the BBC has never been more crucial worldwide. The BBC is trusted by hundreds of millions of people for fair and impartial news, especially in countries where this is in short supply.

“We help people in times of crisis. We will continue to bring the best journalism to audiences in English and more than 40 languages, as well as increasing the impact and influence of our journalism by making our stories go further.”

She added that there was a “compelling case” to expand digital services.

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World Service English will also invest in a new podcast for younger audiences globally, along with an hour-long science strand from the BBC’s new science unit in Cardiff, plus more live news and sports programming.

Other proposals include:

  • Moving some production out of London and closer to audiences – for example relocating the Thai service from London to Bangkok, the Korean service to Seoul, the Bangla service to Dhaka and the Focus On Africa TV bulletin to Nairobi.
  • Making material including investigations and documentaries more collaborative to enable them to travel further.
  • Creating a new China unit based in London.
  • Creating an Africa content hub that commissions and delivers original, distinctive and impactful digital-first content.
  • Continuing scheduled TV broadcasts for both Arabic and Persian languages, and investing in building audio and other digital capability in Arabic and Persian to replace radio.

The proposals will now be subject to consultation with staff and trade unions. Philippa Childs, head of broadcasting union Bectu, said they were “disappointed to see the proposed changes”.

She added: “While we recognise the BBC must adapt to meet the challenges of a changing media landscape, once again it is workers who are hit by the government’s poorly-judged political decisions – its freezing of the licence fee and the resulting funding challenges has necessitated these proposals.”

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Olivia Wilson
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