INSIDE Out West, the weekly current affairs show covering Bristol and the West of England, is the worst affected of the region’s BBC departments threatened in a wave of cutbacks at the corporation.
Members of the Bristol branch of the NUJ meeting on October 12th agreed to do all they could to expose the effect of the cuts and help the BBC Bristol chapel in its campaign against them.
The meeting heard an NUJ member who works at BBC Bristol describe journalists’ fears that the cuts could decimate a programme that has broken many important regional and national stories.
“The concern is not only that jobs will be lost but even the programme itself. The fear is that it will no longer be something truly regional,” the member said.
The BBC is proposing that 40 per cent of jobs will be lost on the weekly Inside Out programmes around the country. Bristol is one of 11 regions which produce the show, broadcast on Mondays at 7.30pm.
Inside Out West has eight permanent staff – already reduced from 10 after two vacancies have gone unfilled.
The plan calls for the 11 regions to be reduced to between five and seven. Bristol seems likely to be merged with Plymouth and possibly another region.
But details are sketchy, said the BBC journalist, and staff are worried that the public will not realise the impact the cuts will have.
It was the predecessor to Inside Out West that first broke the story of the Bristol heart babies scandal, the member said, and the show regularly breaks important stories that are picked up by national and regional media.
“It’s the most popular current affairs show in the UK,” the member said. “If you add the audiences for the regional Inside Out programmes it’s more than for Panorama – it’s ridiculous that it is facing these cuts.”
The plans are in theory open to public consultation until December 11th, though journalists whose jobs are under threat seem likely to receive invitations to take voluntary redundancy before that – calling the validity of the consultation into question.
The cuts aim to slash 20 per cent from the national BBC budget and seem likely to involve compulsory redundancies – something the NUJ seems certain to confront. Around 20 jobs are likely to go in regional broadcasting across the West, including five in Gloucestershire, three in Wiltshire, and four at Inside Out West. BBC Radio Bristol would lose seven posts, a quarter of its staff.
Some local programmes will be shared between stations to become regional shows, while some will be lost altogether to become national programmes. There are great concerns over losing shows and presenters who have built up a real relationship with their listeners over many years, and who provide a distinctive local service.
The Localism agenda is supposed to be a key part of many Government policies, but is being swept aside by the BBC to make cuts.
One of the two TV weather presenters in Bristol will lose their job as more weather jobs move to a regional centre in Plymouth.
The NUJ condemned as “outrageous” a reader poll started by the Bristol Evening Post for readers to vote on which of the two presenters should keep their job – the full story is here.
In TV, Bristol is “gaining” 60 jobs on shows being moved from Birmingham including Countryfile.
But the NUJ expects few job openings as most Birmingham staff seem likely to move to Bristol.
Meanwhile other cuts are expected in daytime shows produced in Bristol, perhaps including Bargain Hunt and Flog It.
The NUJ chapel at BBC Bristol is holding a joint meeting with colleagues in broadcast union BECTU on Wednesday October 19th to decide its response to the cuts.