Fury as BBC business staff slam ‘ridiculous’ decision to relocate them from London – the centre of global finance – to Greater Manchester
In a letter to BBC chairman Richard Sharp, the World Service business team said they had ‘deep concerns’ that the quality of the Corporation’s coverage would suffer as a result of the 200-mile move to Salford.
It understood that the entire business unit of 40 radio presenters and producers has so far refused to relocate – and some have now left the BBC.
Furious BBC business staff have condemned as ‘ridiculous’ a decision to relocate them from the centre of global finance in London to Greater Manchester
Their letter to the chairman, seen by The Mail on Sunday, questioned whether the Salford move offered good value for money to BBC licence-payers.
‘[The plan] includes a proposal to reduce the amount of air time dedicated to business and relocate all 40 of our global business and economics journalist posts from London, the world’s pre-eminent financial centre, to Salford,’ it said. ‘This is a self-evidently ridiculous decision.’
The letter added: ‘Only two of us are considering a move to Salford as a serious choice. The rest cannot relocate. The loss of experience of global business reporting will surely damage the programmes and, consequently, the World Service as a whole.’
The backlash deals another blow to the BBC’s attempt to restructure its newsroom by moving entire teams to other parts of the UK.
Three in four staff at Radio 1’s Newsbeat service have refused to move to a new base in Birmingham and Rory Cellan-Jones, the long-standing technology correspondent, quit after he was asked to relocate to Glasgow.
The World Service business division produces popular radio shows, including its flagship World Business Report.
It focuses on programmes for an international audience which, say staff, makes it even more important that they be based in London to gain access to major companies, global conferences and international business leaders who work in and visit the capital.
In the letter, they described Salford as ‘starved of access to the people [they] need to meet’.
The team currently sits next to the BBC’s World TV business team in London and shares resources which, according to the letter, ‘has undoubtedly reduced duplication and has therefore been a cost-effective use of licence fee money’.
The World Service business staff suggested the relocation ‘of another, UK-focused programme or support team’ instead.
A BBC insider said ‘We’re also being asked to move for a pay cut because we lose London weighting [where staff receive a larger salary due to the higher cost of living in the capital] and the job descriptions are not clear.’
Another said: ‘Our sources are in London and our fear is it’s the beginning of a cost-cutting process whereby they will try to cover world stories using domestic journalists.’
Last night, a BBC spokesman said: ‘We will continue to deliver quality business reporting to audiences around the world, including World Business Report.’