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Staff and programme cuts on the cards at BBC Radio Scotland

By Hamish Mackay |

January 18, 2012 | 4 min read

One-third of BBC Radio Scotland's production staff will lose their jobs and two news programmes will be dropped in the latest wave of BBC cost savings, it is claimed today.

The Herald reports that staff at Pacific Quay in Glasgow, the BBC's HQ in Scotland, were told yesterday that eight radio production journalists there, out of 27, and three more in the BBC's base in Edinburgh would lose their jobs in the coming year.

And the broadsheet claims that two radio news programmes – Scotland at Ten, which reports from Holyrood, and Newsweek, the analysis of the week's news which is broadcast on Saturdays – will also be scrapped as part of the changes.

The Herald says the move has been prompted by the BBC’s Delivering Quality First savings drive, which will result in the loss of 2000 jobs as £670 million is saved across the BBC in the next five years.

It says Newsweek will be replaced by a new Saturday version of Good Morning Scotland, which will become a six-day-a-week operation.

The Herald quotes Scottish Government Culture Secretary, Fiona Hyslop, as saying she continues to have "deep concerns" over the impact of the changes.

She is quoted as saying: "We have previously sought assurances that the quality of the BBC's output in Scotland, particularly in relation to news and current affairs, will not suffer as a consequence of these cuts.

"At a time of such momentous importance for our nation, I continue to have deep concerns about the potential impact of these job losses and programming cutbacks.

"I understand the BBC is being forced to make difficult decisions because of the damaging licence fee settlement imposed by the UK Government.

"This reinforces why it is so essential that Scotland has greater accountability and responsibility for broadcasting."

According to The Herald, a spokesman for the BBC said that Ken MacQuarrie, director of BBC Scotland, had outlined staff cuts last year and yesterday's announcement was part of that cuts plan.

He is quoted as adding: "These are part of the plan that will save 100 to 120 staff positions over the next four or five years, and we hope to do that, as much as is possible, through voluntary redundancy.

"We already broadcast a great range of political coverage. Scotland at Ten has a small audience. We are now trying to concentrate on speech programmes during the day, and music at night and this change fits into that plan."

Updated: A letter to the Herald from BBC Scotland stated that the staff affected by the review were radio news staff, which is part of the BBC Radio Scotland radio production team.

The letter states: "The 11 post reductions in News, which we discussed with the BBC unions yesterday, are part of a package of cuts required of the BBC as a result of the current Licence Fee settlement. That settlement will require a £16million reduction in BBC Scotland’s annual budget by 2017 and a reduction of between 100 and 120 posts. In News, in total, 30 posts will be lost, over the next five years, from a workforce, in that area, of around 240.

"Details of all of these changes were made public last October.

"You note that, as part of these proposals, the Radio Scotland news programmes Newsweek and Scotland At Ten will go. What is not noted, however, is that in total there will be no reduction in news and current affairs output on radio. Nor will there be impact on quality.

"The current one hour Newsweek will be replaced by a two-hour news programme. Instead of Scotland at Ten, we will have more regular daily politics slots within our daily radio news output, where the audiences are higher, and there will be an extra one-hour news and current affairs programme on Saturdays.

"The Licence Fee freeze will inevitably impact on BBC Scotland’s budget. However, we will endeavour to minimise its effect by seeking, where appropriate, voluntary redundancies and redeployment and by ensuring that audience needs at all times take precedence."

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