BBC News suspends 450 job cuts to ensure Covid-19 coverage

BBC cameraman

BBC News has suspended plans to cut 450 jobs as it faces the demands of covering the coronavirus pandemic.

The job losses were announced in January and were part of a plan to complete a £80m savings target by 2022.

Outlets due to be hit include BBC Two’s Newsnight, BBC Radio 5 Live and the World Service’s World Update programme.

Director general Tony Hall gave staff the news on Wednesday, a week after the broadcaster delayed the end of the free TV licence scheme for all over-75s.

Some programmes, such as Politics Live and Victoria Derbyshire, have been taken off air to prioritise coronavirus coverage, and several radio networks are sharing news bulletins.

Analysis by Amol Rajan, BBC media editor

A planned modernisation of BBC News was due to contribute £40m of savings toward an overall target of £80m. The DG said it would be inappropriate to pursue this target while BBC News was so stretched in covering the pandemic.

While these savings will probably be implemented under Lord Hall’s successor (he leaves at the end of the summer), the BBC is racking up a huge bill because of coronavirus. It has already said it will delay changes to free TV licences for the over-75s by two months (at least) – and absorb that cost, which is coincidentally around £80m (at least).

The next director general is going to inherit an even bigger financial black hole that she or he imagined.

However, negotiations with a government that had threatened to “whack” the BBC may be made marginally easier if the BBC – like other public service broadcasters – can prove its worth through this crisis.

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