The BBC has announced it will axe up to 1,000 employees across the next few years while also stopping the broadcast of smaller, but much-loved, linear channels such as children’s channel CBBC and BBC Four. The move comes as director general Tim Davie laid out initial plans as to how the BBC will save around £1.5B ($2B) across the next few years as a result of a government-enforced license fee freeze across the next two years.
The public broadcaster also revealed that it would be merging its BBC World News and BBC News Channel into a single, 24-hour TV channel as it makes a big push to digitize its business across the next few years. Its Radio 4 station would move online to BBC sounds rather than via its traditional broadcast outlet.
In an announcement to staff on Thursday, Director General Tim Davie told staff “this is our moment to build a digital-first BBC.”
The move will come as somewhat of a surprise given only last month Davie rejected the idea of completely cutting a whole service, but the exec said there was a robust plan in place to move these channels to the BBC iPlayer, with an ambition to reach 75% of BBC viewers through iPlayer each week.
The company will ramp up investment in its regional programming while making a big push to accelerate digital growth across its television and radio programs.
The first phase of savings represents £500M ($628M) of annual savings and reinvestment to make the BBC digital-led. As part of this, £200M ($251M) will contribute to the £285M ($358M) annual funding gap by 2027/28, created by the license fee settlement earlier this year. The remaining funding gap will be covered in the final three years of the Charter period.
The BBC has already undergone multiple rounds of redundancies in the last ten years so this newest announcement will come as yet another blow to staff. Currently, the BBC licence fee stands at £159 ($200) but will begin to rise with inflation when the freeze is lifted after two years.
“When I took this job I said we needed to fight for something important: public service content and services, freely available universally, for the good of all,” said Davie to employees. “The fight is intensifying, the stakes are high.”
He added, “This is our moment to build a digital-first BBC. Something genuinely new, a Reithian organisation for the digital age, a positive force for the UK and the world. Independent, impartial, constantly innovating and serving all. A fresh new, global digital media organisation which has never been seen before driven by the desire to make life and society better for our licence fee payers and customers in every corner of the UK and beyond. They want us to keep the BBC relevant and fight for something that in 2022 is more important than ever. To do that we need to evolve faster and embrace the huge shifts around us.”