BBC News restructure and job cuts suspended amid coronavirus pandemic

By Sherna Noah, PA Senior Entertainment Correspondent

The BBC is suspending plans to cut jobs in BBC News because of the demands of covering the coronavirus pandemic.

The broadcaster’s director-general Tony Hall told staff about the decision during an all-staff call.

A BBC spokeswoman confirmed to the PA news agency that the restructure, which would have lead to around 450 job cuts, had been paused.

Its focus is now keeping a continuous news service on-air amid the challenges caused by the pandemic.

Victoria Derbyshire’s programme was to be axed (Yui Mok/PA)

Wednesday’s suspension comes after the BBC delayed the introduction of means-testing of the licence fee for over-75s because of the pandemic.

The BBC announced cuts to Newsnight, 5Live and other news output as part of cost-cutting plans and an effort to reach the young in January.

A review of the number of BBC presenters “and how they work” was also being launched as part of plans to “modernise its newsroom”.

Programmes across news, including Today, would be affected, while Victoria Derbyshire’s BBC Two programme would be axed.

But Lord Hall told staff that it was the wrong time to make the changes.

“It would be inappropriate. We haven’t got the resource to plough ahead with those plans at the moment, so we’ll come back to that at some point,” he said.

“But for the moment we just want to make sure you are supported and you’ve got the resources to do the job that you and your colleagues are doing amazingly.”

BBC director-general Tony Hall (David Parry/PA)

The announcement also comes as local newspapers are affected by the pandemic.

Newsquest is placing a “significant number” of its staff on furlough while wage cuts will be introduced for remaining staff to “minimise wider job losses”.

Press Gazette said JPI Media is also suspending 12 print titles following a “substantial reduction in advertising”.

The corporation said, in January, that it wanted to “reduce duplication” while making savings of £80 million, citing the last licence fee settlement.

BBC chief Lord Hall is preparing to step down after seven years in the role.