BBC Layoffs: What Are The Implications For Online?

Not a great year for the BBC. On top of the various fakery scandals and a £2 billion ($4.1 billion) shortfall in revenues from its license fee, now there is speculation swirling around the prospect of a huge swathe of layoffs totaling 12 percent of its workforce. The FT has quoted sources as saying the job cuts could be as high as 2,800 with the bulk of the layoffs to hit the factual division, while the Guardian adds that “hundreds of jobs are expected to be lost” in news.

What are the online implications? As PC:UK has reported previously, the news division has been told to cut its budget by five percent; separately to this, it is working on a converged Internet, radio and TV newsroom. Taking these two points together, it is likely that at least some of the layoffs will be in areas where the online operation overlaps with those of radio and TV.

It’s worth repeating what BBC News Interactive Head Pete Clifton told paidContent:UK last week: “Of course, there is now another element that nobody can hide from — the license fee renewal was less than expected. Over the coming weeks and months, there will be a reality dawn about only having the money for fewer people.” What is ironic for a broadcaster intent on serving the UK public as widely as possible is that the online news output is some of the most popular Internet content in the country (and worldwide, even if that doesn’t figure into domestic strategies).

The BBC director general, Mark Thompson, is expected to outline specifics of the his cost-cutting plans for the BBC at large on October 17. Meanwhile, unions are getting more vocal over a possible strike action.