Why is the BBC moving journalists out of London?

Broadcaster planning to relocate 400 roles to cities around the UK

BBC Broadcasting House
(Image credit: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Hundreds of BBC journalists will have to move out of London to keep their jobs after the broadcaster announced sweeping plans to relocate roles away from the capital.

Director-general Tim Davie told staff that the shift away from London will help to represent “different voices and perspectives”, adding that the BBC should tell stories “from all corners of the UK”, Press Gazette reports.

According to the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), 400 roles are being moved out of London and 150 roles closed, while Davie said that a network of more than 100 digital reporters would be created “to bring us closer to some of the UK’s most under-served communities”.

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Specialist journalism teams, for example those covering the environment, technology and education, will be relocated from London to new bases in Leeds, Cardiff, Glasgow and Birmingham.

However, “one of the biggest challenges” for the broadcaster’s management will be “convincing existing big-name presenters and top executives to move to the new locations”, The Guardian says.

Staff on the London-based teams impacted by the decision told the paper that they “expected the vast majority of their colleagues to quit rather than uproot their families and relocate elsewhere in the country”.

Technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones tweeted that it was a “tricky day” for his team, saying Glasgow – where technology reporters will be expected to relocate – is “a great city”, before adding: “Many of us are not at the stage in life where we can uproot our families.”

Redundancies at the BBC across the UK “means the public service BBC is smaller by more than 900 people than this time last year”, says Press Gazette.

Paul Siegert, the NUJ’s national broadcasting organiser, said that the union “welcome[s] more diversity and creating more content out of London”. But he added that “it’s strange that at the same time the BBC is talking about the importance of getting out of London… it has also axed 450 posts in English regions and cut £25m from that budget”.

The Guardian says that there was also “open anger on a call with head of news Fran Unsworth” after she suggested that “that too many [BBC journalists] live in expensive areas of London such as Wandsworth and Richmond”.

Many journalists pointed out that despite the shifting of roles away from London, “the corporation’s existing London-based executive board members are expected to remain based in the capital”, the paper adds.

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