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BBC to create more than 130 local news jobs – but more roles to be axed

Rhodri Talfan DaviesThe BBC is set to create 131 new local news jobs as part of a series of changes which will see 179 other roles being made redundant.

As reported this morning, the corporation has announced cuts that will lead to the proposed loss of 139 roles due to the introduction of increased programme-sharing across its network of 39 local radio stations in England.

However, the BBC has also revealed 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.

The changes, which will see a net loss of 48 jobs, will come about due to £19m being reprioritised from broadcast services towards online and multimedia production in order to “to keep pace with changing audience expectations”.

The 11 new investigative reporting teams across England will deliver original stories across tv, radio and online services and will aim to “provide more analysis of key local issues,” the BBC said.

As well as 139 audio roles being made redundant, 40 posts will also be lost due to documentary series We are England coming to an end, which was previously announced in May.

The previously revealed closure of the local television news programmes in Oxford and Cambridge will go ahead too.

The BBC’s director of nations Rhodri Talfan Davies, pictured, said: “These are ambitious and far-reaching proposals to grow the value we deliver to local audiences everywhere.

“The plans will help us connect with more people in more communities right across England – striking a better balance between our broadcast and online services – and ensuring we remain a cornerstone of local life for generations to come.”

Under the plans, all 39 BBC stations will continue with their own dedicated local programming from 6am to 2pm on weekdays, but this will be cut to 18 shared programmes between 2pm and 6pm.

From 6pm to 10pm, there will be 10 shared programmes across the stations, broadly mirroring the areas served by the BBC’s television news regions – a model that will also be replicated all day on Saturdays and on Sunday mornings.

A national ‘all-England’ programme will also be launched after 10pm across the week and on Sunday afternoons and evenings.

However, the BBC has confirmed local news bulletin services will be protected across the day on all local stations and all live sports programming will be maintained.

To support the new plan, the BBC will create multimedia news operations across the country – bringing its local news teams together across radio, tv and online for the first time.

The move comes after the BBC last year revealed a plan, criticised repeatedly by regional press industry bosses, to create a network of 100 journalists in an expanded local digital reporting operation called ‘Across the UK.’

HTFP has sought clarification on whether the new roles announced today form part of that expansion.

Paul Siegert, the National Union of Journalists’ national broadcasting officer, has criticsed the plans.

He said: “This is the biggest threat facing local radio since it launched in 1967. The key to its success over the past 50 years has been its localness.

“When it stops being less local it loses its USP. People in Kent don’t care about what is going on in Sussex.

“If these proposals are allowed to go ahead it will be the beginning of the end for local radio.

“The NUJ is not opposed to the BBC investing in digital services, but it should not be at the expense of local radio.

“Over five million people listen to it and many of them pay their licence fee largely because of local radio. Tonight, they have every right to be angry.”