THE local government and education correspondent posts at BBC Scotland are to be merged into one, following the unveiling of plans to cut 35 posts at the Glasgow-based broadcaster.
As reported yesterday on allmediascotland.com, the 35 posts earmarked for redundancy are part of an overall total of between 100 and 120 to be shed between last year and 2016-17. It follows a review, titled ‘Delivering Quality First’, that emerged from the BBC and the Westminster Government two years ago agreeing to freeze the TV licence for six years.
For BBC Scotland that meant a 16 per cent budget cut, translated to a £16.1 million each year cut from an annual budget of £102 million.
The local government correspondent post is currently occupied by Jamie McIvor, while Seonag Mackinnon is the education correspondent. The 35 posts under threat comprise, in detail, eight from radio, two from Gaelic, 17 from news and current affairs, six from marketing, communications and audiences and two from New Media, learning and outreach.
The Scottish Sun today reports the merging of the local government and education posts, while The Herald notes that “Inverness will be particularly badly hit, with two of four senior broadcast journalists working in English…to go.”
It is understood Tom Morton’s afternoon music show on BBC Radio Scotland is to be replaced by an arts and culture programme likely to be presented by Janice Forsyth. The current comedy, movie, etc ‘cafes’ will be folded into the new programme, except the Kitchen Cafe, which will be switched from Wednesday lunchtime to a slot on Sunday.
Still on radio, the Beechgrove Potting Shed garden questions programme will be folded from its Sunday berth into the daily MacAulay and Co, presented by Fred MacAulay.
Says Paul Holleran, the Scottish Organiser of the National Union of Journalists: “While we knew cuts were coming, I think it would be no exaggeration to state that people in radio and the newsroom in particular were shocked at the large numbers affected.
“At a time when BBC Scotland should be getting more resources to deal with the growing demand for political debate around the independence referendum, and what kind of a future we want for Scotland then, these cuts are forced through because of the bad deal over the licence fee settlement.
“[BBC Scotland is] finding it difficult to produce programmes with the current straffing levels and only then with a lot of good will from our members. At the moment, I am pessimistic about these cuts happening without conflict but we will be meeting management again soon to hear their proposals and that will give us a clearer picture.”
Adds Paul McManus, Scottish Organiser of fellow trade union, BECTU: “While BECTU is aware that these cuts are Scotland’s share of the much-maligned UK-wide ‘DQF’ cuts, it believes that Scotland is being disproportionally affected by the cuts at a time when the political and economic climate in Scotland requires a strong, independent and vibrant public service broadcaster.
“The proposed cuts affect members in Stornoway, Aberdeen, Inverness, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow, so they may mean people being forced out of the industry altogether or having to uproot their lives and families if they wish to continue in their chosen profession.
“Equally, one of the biggest concerns faced by BECTU members within the BBC is the significant pressures faced by less and less staff to deliver more and more work. Members claim there has been a big increase in unrecorded hours of work as staff struggle to meet unrealistic deadlines allied to swingeing budgetary cuts.”
Thirty-nine posts have already gone as part of the ‘100-120 estimate’. The 35 now – taking the total up to 74 – are expected to be gone by the end of March.