Nearly 400 job cuts announced at BBC World Service

Some 382 jobs at BBC World Service will be cut as part of plans to move to a digital-led service.

The broadcaster will also close its BBC Arabic and BBC Persian radios in a move it says will help “accelerate its digital offering and increase impact with audiences around the globe”.

The cuts follow the BBC’s announcement of a new digital-first “blueprint” in May, which included the news that BBC Four and CBBC will end as linear channels in the coming years.

Announcing the new cuts, the BBC said: “High inflation, soaring costs, and a cash-flat licence fee settlement have led to tough choices across the BBC, and the BBC’s international services need to make a saving of £28.5m as part of the wider £500m of annual savings and reinvestment to make the BBC digital-led.”

It insisted the World Service will continue to “serve audiences during moments of jeopardy” and “ensure audiences in countries such as Russia, Ukraine and Afghanistan have access to vital news services, using appropriate broadcast and distribution platforms”.

The broadcaster is also proposing to stop its Kyrgyz, Uzbek, Hindi, Bengali, Chinese, Indonesian, Tamil and Urdu radio services.

Language services the BBC is proposing to move to digital-only include those in Chinese, Gujarati, Igbo, Indonesian, Pidgin, Urdu and Yoruba.

The proposals would also see some production units move out of London – relocating the Thai service to Bangkok, the Korean service to Seoul, the Bangla service to Dhaka and the Focus On Africa TV bulletin to broadcast from Nairobi.

Other proposals include creating a new China Global Unit based in London to “tell the global story of China to the world” and a centralised digital-first commissioning and news-gathering content production hub to supply non-English language BBC services.

World Service English will continue to operate globally as 24-hour broadcast radio, with new scheduling, programmes and podcasts to be set out in due course.

The director of BBC World Service, Liliane Landor, added: “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.

Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall engagements-London
Charles and Camilla during a visit to the BBC World Service to mark its 90th year (PA)

“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.

“There is a compelling case for expanding our digital services across the World Service in order to better serve and connect with our audiences.

“The way audiences are accessing news and content is changing and the challenge of reaching and engaging people around the world with quality, trusted journalism is growing.”

Philippa Childs, head of broadcasting union Bectu, said the body is “disappointed” by the announcement.

“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,” she said.

“As well as potential ramifications for the BBC’s reputation globally, these proposals will directly impact the talented and dedicated people who work hard to deliver critical news services to the nation and beyond.

“This is a challenging and uncertain time for our members and we will continue to fully engage with World Service over these proposals to do everything we can to support them.”

Ms Childs said she will campaign to ensure the BBC redeploys staff and reduces the number of compulsory redundancies.