By Jonathan McCambridge, PA
BBC Northern Ireland has announced plans to cut up to 40 jobs as part of a drive to save money and invest in online services.
The changes, announced to staff on Tuesday, will see the end of BBC Radio Foyle’s Breakfast programme and the Inside Business programme on Radio Ulster.
The plans have been criticised by the NUJ and Foyle MP Colum Eastwood, who said it was an attempt to close Radio Foyle “by stealth”.
The corporation said it was setting out its plans to “facilitate the enhancement of its digital video and online services and the savings that it will need to make over the coming period”.
It said that local investment in BBC iPlayer will be increased, but there will also be output and staffing reductions in news, audio and related areas.
A BBC spokesperson said: “BBC Northern Ireland is proposing to close approximately 35-40 posts to contribute to its £2.3 million savings and reinvestment plans.
“It is hoped the majority of post closures will be achieved through voluntary redundancy, with some opportunities for redeployment within BBC Northern Ireland.
“The proposals are now subject to consultation with staff and trade unions.
“Some of BBC Northern Ireland’s output will be impacted by these plans, including the breakfast-time news programme on BBC Radio Foyle and Inside Business on BBC Radio Ulster.
“Efforts have been made to limit the effect of proposed changes on the scope and benefits of BBC services in Northern Ireland and local staff teams.”
Adam Smyth, BBC NI interim director, said: “These are challenging times and we face some difficult choices, none of which are easy.
“We have to find monies to maintain and develop our local presence on BBC iPlayer and to absorb cost pressures across different aspects of our work.
“Our concern in all of this will be to safeguard audience value and benefit and to remain mindful of the impact that this announcement will have on BBC staff in Northern Ireland.”
The BBC statement said that several UK-wide operational and staffing reviews are also ongoing and these may impact other locally-based teams and roles next year.
Seamus Dooley, NUJ assistant general secretary, urged an urgent rethink of the plans.
He said: “The decision to end the BBC Radio Foyle Breakfast Show and to end regional news bulletins is a betrayal of the people of Northern Ireland.
“This is an attack on the very essence of public service broadcasting.
“Radio Foyle is part of the cultural landscape of the North West with a wide listenership on both sides of the border.
“The diminution of services in Radio Foyle is of particular concern and will be strongly resisted by the NUJ.”
Mr Eastwood told the BBC Nolan Show: “The impact in the north west will effectively end up closing this station (Radio Foyle). This will make it unsustainable.
“The flagship breakfast programme is going. Anybody knows once you remove the flagship programme you are basically closing the station.
“This is an attempt to close Radio Foyle by stealth.”