BBC Four and CBBC will no longer be aired as traditional broadcast channels after the next few years as part of the corporation’s plans to become “digital first”.
They will end as linear TV channels and are expected to move online to the iPlayer, while Radio 4 Extra could become available on the BBC Sounds service only.
Announcing what it described as “a blueprint to build a digital-first public service media organisation”, the BBC said 1,000 jobs will be cut over the next few years.
The BBC World News and BBC News channels will merge to create a single 24-hour TV news channel serving both UK and international audiences as part of the corporation’s wider plans.
Regional TV news programmes in Oxford and Cambridge are also among the services being scrapped – merging with the BBC’s Southampton and Norwich operations.
Director-general Tim Davie told staff: “This is our moment to build a digital-first BBC. Something genuinely new, a Reithian organisation for the digital age, a positive force for the UK and the world.
“Independent, impartial, constantly innovating and serving all. A fresh, new, global digital media organisation which has never been seen before.
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“Driven by the desire to make life and society better for our licence fee payers and customers in every corner of the UK and beyond. They want us to keep the BBC relevant and fight for something that in 2022 is more important than ever.
“To do that we need to evolve faster and embrace the huge shifts in the market around us.”
BBC aims to close funding gap created by licence fee freeze
The move comes off the back of the BBC needing to save a further £285m in response the culture secretary’s announcement in January that the licence fee will be frozen at £159 for the next two years.
The first phase of savings under the plans represents £500m annual savings and reinvestment.
As part of this, £200m will contribute to the £285m annual funding gap by 2027/28 created by the licence fee freeze.
The remaining gap will be covered in the final three years of the charter period.
The BBC has already undergone a series of rounds of redundancies and cuts over the past decade prompted by below-inflation increases in the licence fee.
Mr Davie, who took over from Lord Tony Hall as BBC director-general in September 2020, has overseen a slimming down of the corporation since starting in the role, with the BBC losing some 1,200 staff in the last 18 months.
BBC Four, which is home to BBC Proms, BBC Young Dancer and BBC Young Musician, was launched in 2002 and has traditionally shown mainly arts and documentary content, as well as various international dramas.
However, last year the corporation announced it would become the “home” of archived content and that it would broadcast fewer original programmes.
Government decision is leading to ‘real-term job cuts’
Philippa Childs, head of broadcasting union Bectu, said: “We recognise the need for organisations to change and adapt and welcome the BBC’s commitment to step up to the challenges of a changing media landscape and build a digital-first corporation.
“However, once again we see the impact of poorly judged political decisions on workers as the government’s decision to freeze the licence fee has instigated these real-term job cuts.”
The BBC also faces uncertainty over the future of the licence fee after Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries announced a consultation about the future funding of the broadcaster will begin shortly.
The minister has said she wants to find a new funding model before the current deal expires in 2027 as it is “completely outdated”.
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