BBC staff pulled live programme as they were 'too upset to work'

Regional BBC TV news staff pull out of live programme because they were ‘too upset to work’ after it was announced workers would be made redundant just one week before Christmas

  • Staff at BBC Look East’s Cambridge office were reportedly left in tears yesterday
  • Many journalists and tech staff will be losing jobs as part of cost-saving plans
  • BBC plans to share more content and have less programming unique to an area
  • Some staff are having to ‘re-apply for their jobs and compete with colleagues’

BBC staff at a regional TV news station pulled their live programme because they were ‘too upset to work’ following an announcement that employees would be made redundant next month.

Many of the broadcasting team at BBC Look East’s Cambridge office decided against going ahead with its scheduled 6.30pm and 10.30pm programmes after receiving the news hours earlier.

Staff were told yesterday that the final BBC Look East programme from the Cambridge office will be aired on December 16, with many journalists and production staff set to lose their jobs.

Viewers instead received broadcasts from Norwich last night, from where broadcasts will be permanently aired next month.

Cambridge BBC journalist Mousumi Bakshi tweeted yesterday: ‘Team, we have decided not to broadcast tonight. For reasons detailed below. Please accept our sincere apologies.

‘We were split. We’re here to serve you and we love broadcasting live. 

‘But that’s not possible tonight. We’ll sup on the red bull and come back tomorrow, with wings on.’

Cambridge BBC journalist Mousumi Bakshi yesterday apologised after the office decided against going ahead with its scheduled 6.30pm and 10.30pm programmes

The BBC has said it needs to save £285 million in response to the announcement in January that the licence fee will be frozen for the next two years

A member of staff in the Cambridge office said the tech team took the news the hardest, while there were lots of tears as the news of the forthcoming redundancies sunk in.

The BBC employee, who did not want to be named, said: ‘Our young, talented and loyal tech team took the news the hardest. 

‘There were many tears, as colleagues and friends hugged and held hands as the news sunk in that going forward there will be no technical roles at all based in the Cambridge building. 

‘Many others will have to re-apply for their own jobs and compete with colleagues. Staff took time to digest the news. We were walking around like zombies. We needed to talk, process what had happened. 

‘No one wanted to let our viewers down, but the decision was taken that it wouldn’t be fair on those whose posts are closing, to output the programme under such stressful and emotional conditions.

 ‘The decision was taken after much deliberation and discussion on all sides. After all, after mid-December the programme will come from Norwich anyway.’

The staff member added that the ‘close-knit, hardworking team’ was ‘being ripped apart in the cruellest way possible’.

They continued: ‘We have fewer resources than almost any other regional news programme and yet we are the ones at risk of losing our jobs. 

‘We are like a family and have been there to support each other, but the next few weeks and months will be very difficult for us all. We are sad for our loyal audiences who we feel will be underserved and short-changed in the future. 

‘After five months and five days of worry, sleepless nights, financial uncertainty, not knowing if we have the money to pay the bills, this was yet another slap in the face and a disappointment for those who were hoping they had a future in the brave new “digital” world. 

‘Some of us left wondering for all that time if we needed to move, pull our children out of school.’

A spokesperson for the BBC refused to deny the reasoning for the programme being pulled last night.

A statement said: ‘BBC Look East from Cambridge didn’t put out programmes last night, instead viewers received broadcasts from Norwich. 

‘The Cambridge programme will return tonight then on December 16th we are closing the service.’

It comes as Culture minister Julia Lopez today said the Government is ‘disappointed’ with the BBC’s plans to make ‘extensive’ cuts to local radio.

Culture minister Julia Lopez pictured giving evidence to the Lords Communications and Digital Committee earlier this year

The BBC announced plans yesterday for its local radio stations to share more content and broadcast less programming unique to their area, with the proposals resulting in the loss of 48 jobs overall.

After 2pm on weekdays, the BBC will produce 18 afternoon programmes across England that will be shared between its 39 stations. 

Ten local programmes will then be shared between 6-10pm on weekdays, across the day on Saturday and on Sunday mornings, serving areas broadly mirroring the existing local TV areas. 

Answering an urgent question in the Commons on Tuesday, Ms Lopez said: ‘Overall, we do have concerns about the proposals, which we were not given notice of. 

‘I want to take this opportunity to stress that the BBC is rightly operationally and editorially independent from the Government, and decisions on service delivery are ultimately a matter for them. 

‘However, the Government is disappointed that the BBC is reportedly planning to make such extensive cuts to its local radio output.” 

She added: ‘For those older residents living in rural areas, it can be a particular lifeline. The BBC must make sure it continues to provide distinctive and genuinely local radio services with content that reflects and represents people and communities from all corners of the UK. 

‘We recognise in the current fiscal context the BBC, like other organisations, is facing difficult financial decisions. 

‘But we are also concerned that the BBC is making such far-reaching decisions, particularly about its local news provision, without setting out further detail on how it will impact its audiences and the communities it serves.’

Sir Mike Penning, MP for Hemel Hempstead, also told the Commons: ‘The public trust local radio, like they don’t trust Newsnight or the Today programme.

‘Frankly, because they don’t listen to it and they trust local radio. If it’s about money, then take half a million pounds out Gary Lineker’s salary or one of the others who earn extortionate salaries.’

Mr Lineker was the BBC’s top earning on-air talent in 2021/22 with a salary of between £1,350,000 and £1,354,999. 

The BBC has said it needs to save £285 million in response to the announcement in January that the licence fee will be frozen for the next two years. 

The proposals were announced as part of its new strategy, announced in May, to create a ‘modern, digital-led’ broadcaster. 

It said the changes will see around £19m ‘reprioritised’ from broadcast services towards online and multi-media production. 

BBC Radio Humberside journalist Andy Comfort criticised the move, writing on Twitter that staff were ‘stunned and upset’. 

Labour MP Emma Hardy told the Commons local radio ‘cannot call itself local when it stops being local after 2pm’.

Conservative chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee Julian Knight also spoke of the ‘very real concerns over potential loss of local distinctiveness through these proposed cuts’. 

He added: ‘These cuts make reforms to radio prominence absolutely crucial and will the minister quash growing rumours that the main potential vehicle for such reforms, the Media Bill, is set to be shelved or delayed in any way.’

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