The BBC has revealed plans to “reinvent” local services across England in light of financial difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic, with plans to cut 450 jobs in English regional TV news and current affairs, local radio and online news.
The broadcaster said that it plans to transform local radio stations and regional TV news to “serve audiences better, respond to lessons learnt during the COVID-19 crisis and make savings to tackle its financial challenges”.
These measures include investing in new technology for regional TV centres, commissioning a broader range of TV programming which reflects life in the North and Midlands, and launching a new investigative journalism programme on BBC One for regional audiences to replace Inside Out.
The network also plans to widen its political coverage beyond Westminster by introducing 11 weekly regional politics and two digital programmes, while the BBC continues its research into how it can serve audiences in the North and the Midlands better.
BBC England said these measures, which follow a thorough review of its services, are being introduced as the broadcaster must save £25m by March 2022, which could result in 450 job losses across English regions.
The BBC also revealed that the pandemic has added £125 million to its savings target of £800 million due to a shortfall in revenue.
Director of BBC England, Helen Thomas said: “I’m proud people have turned to us for trusted news and information in huge numbers during COVID-19, proving the importance of our local and regional services. But those services were created more than 50 years ago, have changed very little and need significant reinvention. That has meant taking some difficult decisions..”
“We are in the age of the Facebook community group and the WhatsApp neighbourhood chat. We must adapt to better reflect how people live their lives, how they get their news and what content they want.”
“We’re going to modernise our offer to audiences in England by making digital a central part of everything we do. We’ll take forward lessons from COVID-19 that will make us more agile and more in touch with communities while also ensuring we’re as efficient as we can be. I’m confident we can evolve our local and regional services while improving our impact and better serving our audiences,” she added.
These proposals follow the BBC’s announcement days ago that iPlayer experienced its biggest month ever in May after receiving over 570 million programmes requests.