CUTS and job losses for regional programmes were outlined by the BBC as the corporation unveiled plans to cut its annual budget by £670m.
The cutbacks were revealed yesterday at sites across the country as broadcast chiefs unveiled proposals that would see 2,000 lose their jobs nationally.
In total between 34 and 37 positions are to be axed across the North East and Cumbria as BBC bosses reshuffle regional centres.
The North East and Cumbria’s Inside Out programme, which focuses on regional current affairs, was dealt a 40% budget blow, amounting to four full-time jobs.
And the proposals laid out plans to reduce the number of weather presenters from three to one with pre-recorded broadcasts from Leeds.
Local radio was handed a blow with plans for shared programmes in the afternoons, evenings and weekdays between Radio Tees and Radio Newcastle.
Bosses maintained the breakfast and drive-time programmes remained a core priority and vowed to protect them. Chiefs said there would be a 19% budget cut at Radio Newcastle, while Radio Tees and Radio Cumbria would have a 20% budget reduction. The three stations would lose between 27 and 30 staff.
Last night the region’s union representative criticised the scale of the cuts and called on viewers to contact the BBC Trust and voice their opinions.
Barry Fitzpatrick, from the Newcastle BBC branch of the National Union of Journalists, said: “The plan is called Delivering Quality First but as far as we are concerned it’s destroying quality forever.
“How you can talk about delivering quality but give one of the only regional current affairs programmes a 40% cut? We produce high-quality current affairs programmes and if that is cut it is simply not going to be done anywhere outside the region.
“A key part of the BBC’s pledge is to serve local and regional communities but these plans are a massive move away from that. A lot of people were shocked at the scale of what is proposed.” The BBC hopes to make savings of £670m a year by 2016/17 on top of £30m of savings generated by exceeding targets for its current efficiency programme.
Director general Mark Thompson said the plan meant “stretching efficiencies and significant job losses”, adding: “It’s my judgement that this is the last time the BBC will be able to make this level of savings without a substantial loss of services or quality or both.” Gerry Morrissey, general secretary of technicians’ union Bectu, said: “They are destroying jobs and destroying the BBC.” He accused Mr Thompson of doing the Government’s “dirty work” by making such big cuts in spending and jobs, accusing the corporation of “salami slicing”.
The BBC said it will build on its efficiency programme, which has seen savings of more than £1bn since 2008/09, to release a further £400m of savings per year by 2016/17.
The BBC Trust said it had been assessing this work with the help of independent advisors, adding the savings will be achieved by a more flexible workforce which “reduces duplication of expertise”, streamlines technology, reduces the number of senior managers and increases production outside London.