News head shocks staff with resignation announcement

THE head of news and current affairs at BBC Scotland has announced he is standing down.

Blair Jenkins told staff at 10.30am yesterday that the decision was “very difficult decision” and that it has been a “fantastic privilege to lead the news and current affairs team at BBC Scotland”.

He continued: “There is so much journalism to be proud of – awards at a European and UK level for Frontline, Reporting Scotland and Newsnight Scotland; the fact that Good Morning Scotland is achieving its best audiences in ten years; political coverage that is unrivalled for its range and depth; our Scottish news website which leads the BBC in much of its content and thinking. Those are just some examples from a long list. It’s been a pleasure and a source of no little pride to work with so many talented and committed people.”

BBC Scotland will be advertising the vacancy next week. Jenkins will remain in post until next month. He has been steadfastly titght-lipped why he is leaving, but it is being widely speculated he has had enough of budget cuts at Queen Margaret Drive, with possibly more to be announced by director general, Mark Thompson, next week.

In the meantime, Alasdair MacLeod will be ‘minding the shop’. Alasdair is currently executive editor, Political Programmes, for BBC Scotland.

Said BBC Scotland Controller, Ken MacQuarrie, to staff: “Blair has led news and current affairs confidently into the digital future. In an increasingly fragmented market, he has ensured that BBC Scotland continues to be the standard bearer and leader for news, political coverage and current affairs across Scotland on television, radio and new platforms. We owe him an enormous debt of gratitude and I am sure you will join me in wishing him all the very best for whatever he decides to do in the future.”

With unions preparing a strike ballot on pay, pensions and job cuts already at the Corporation, Pete Murray, of the National Union of Journalists’ chapel at BBC Scotland, said: “We are genuinely surprised to hear Blair Jenkins’ decision to resign after six years as head of News and Current Affairs at BBC Scotland.

“He had presided over a period of intense change in the department, most recently forced upon us by director general, Mark Thompson’s attack on jobs and programme budgets across the BBC.

“Blair Jenkins’ departure is therefore one of the most significant resignations at the BBC since the end of the Hutton Affair. It must be seen in the context of the growing anger among staff over the continuing job cuts, threats of compulsory redundancies and the BBC’s attack on the staff pension scheme.

“Thousands of BBC staff are preparing for what could be another round of industrial action over redundancies, pensions and low pay. Whoever is chosen to replace Blair Jenkins, journalists at BBC Scotland will not accept a management bean-counter who seeks to impose further job cuts and swingeing savings on the premier news and current affairs department in Scotland.”