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BBC to axe up to 40 local news jobs as further cuts revealed

Adam SmythUp to 40 jobs are set to be made redundant as part of further BBC plans to cut its regional news services.

The BBC has announced planned cuts in Northern Ireland in addition to those announced in England earlier this month.

The corporation is planning to scrap the daily breakfast news programme on BBC Radio Foyle, while the Derry-based station will also lose its hourly regional news bulletins as part of a plan to save £2.3m.

The weekly Inside Business programme on Radio Ulster will also be lost, but more money is set to be spent on BBC Northern Ireland’s online and digital services.

Two of Radio Foyle’s daytime programmes – Sean Coyle’s morning show and Mark Patterson’s afternoon programme – will continue, along with a daily 30-minute news programme.

The BBC says it estimates between 25 and 40 roles will be lost, but it is hoped the majority of post closures will be achieved through voluntary redundancy.

The plan comes after the BBC revealed the proposed loss of 139 roles due to the introduction of increased programme-sharing across its network of 39 local radio stations in England, although 131 new roles are also being created.

In a statement, BBC Northern Ireland said that its plans “reflect a BBC-wide strategy to prioritise digital content, announced earlier this year, and the need to manage inflationary and other cost pressures”.

It said: “BBC Northern Ireland is proposing to close approximately 35-40 posts to contribute to its £2.3m savings and reinvestment plans. Efforts have been made to limit the effect of proposed changes on the scope and benefits of BBC services in Northern Ireland and local staff teams.”

BBC NI interim director Adam Smyth, pictured, added: “We have to find monies to maintain and develop our local presence on BBC iPlayer and to absorb cost pressures across different aspects of our work.

“Our concern in all of this will be to safeguard audience value and benefit and to remain mindful of the impact that this announcement will have on BBC staff in Northern Ireland.”

The National Union of Journalists has condemned the plans. Assistant general secretary Séamus Dooley said: “The decision to end the BBC Radio Foyle Breakfast Show and to end regional news bulletins is a betrayal of the people of Northern Ireland. This is an attack on the very essence of public service broadcasting.

“Radio Foyle is part of the cultural landscape of the North West with a wide listenership on both sides of the border.

“The diminution of services in Radio Foyle is of particular concern and will be strongly resisted by the NUJ. We call on political parties, community groups, trade unions and listeners to join us in opposing this move.

“The NUJ is opposed to the redundancy plan. If redundancies are implemented, they should be on a voluntary basis. The BBC should go back to the drawing board and achieve savings in some other fashion.

“This is a wrong-headed plan at a time when Northern Ireland needs a diversity of news coverage. BBC Radio Foyle is vital to the life of Derry, a vibrant city with a tremendous heart and a resilient spirit.

“Today’s news will be met with strong resistance, and we will support our members at BBC Northern Ireland in taking a stand to defend employment and public service broadcasting across Northern Ireland. Local news for local communities is not something which should be discarded in this fashion.”

In England, the BBC is set to make a concurrent investment in local journalism that will lead to the creation of 11 investigative reporting teams across the country, to be staffed by 71 new journalists.

It has further pledged to increase its daily online news provision for 43 local areas and launch dedicated services covering Bradford, Wolverhampton, Sunderland and Peterborough.