Select Committee on BBC Charter Review Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 920 - 923)


29 NOVEMBER 2005Mr Richard Sambrook and Mr Nigel Chapman

  Q920  Lord Bishop of Manchester: If we can go back to the question of staffing changes which will arise from the kind of cuts that you were talking about earlier on, we know that 230 posts will close, up to 130 of them in the United Kingdom. You said that nobody will be made redundant until early December. We are a few days away from early December—

  Mr Chapman: December 2006.

  Q921  Lord Bishop of Manchester: Right. How many, do you know, at this stage, are likely to be made redundant?

  Mr Chapman: It would be too early to say because we are still in discussions with staff here in the United Kingdom about alternative opportunities. However, I have to be a realist; this is in a climate where in terms of the BBC's overall position there are significant job losses going on in the BBC; some of those are related to journalism and so the possibility that you can create 120 new suitable jobs for staff in some of those European services and they can transfer across to do that, I think, would be unrealistic. In addition, quite a lot will want to take the opportunity to leave because the provisions in terms of redundancy pay and other parts of the settlement are, in fact, very generous by industry standards, so they may well want to use that opportunity and that money to do other businesses and go into other things. So it would not be sensible, in some cases, to even project that you would be able to find jobs for all those people.

  Q922  Lord Bishop of Manchester: The purpose of my question was really to inquire about the morale of the World Service in the light of all these changes.

  Mr Chapman: I will be frank with you; it is a mixed story. I think staff are relieved, after a long period of waiting, that there is a clear strategy; they see a journey to 2010, they see some pretty expensive and important new investments around not just television but, also, new media, better studios for radio and improved marketing. So, if you like, those that are staying behind, which is the vast majority of the staff (remember, there are still going to be 32 language services left after these changes) are feeling: "Well, we have got the story now; we know what the Director wants to do, we know what he can afford to fund, and we are going on a journey which is quite an exciting journey." For some of them there is new investment coming. Obviously, for those where the services are facing closure, and they will realistically close their broadcasting in the next few weeks and months, that is a very sad time—I accept that. It is a sad time, it is a difficult time but we are doing everything we can to mitigate that, and I think the mood is more sadness than anger, if I can put it like that. I think people understand the rationale for it; it has been talked about. Closing some of these services has been on the World Service agenda, on and off, for some 10 years. It is not new in that respect. Some of them, I think, have had that possibility hanging over them for that period of time and in some cases there is a sense of relief, actually, that "at least we now know what is happening to us, we know what you want to do and we know you will compensate us properly for the loss of the job, loss of office and loss of opportunity". The BBC World Service will abide by the agreements the BBC has made, if you like, nationally with the unions through the changes that Mark Thompson announced earlier last year. So I think that is the context, but I accept it is not an easy situation.

  Q923  Baroness Howe of Idlicote: Thank you very much. Are there any other questions that Members of the panel would like to ask? I think we can say thank you very much. You have given up a lot of your time and we are very grateful for that. If we have any further queries, if we may, we will write to you about those. Thank you very much indeed.

  Mr Chapman: Thank you.

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