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BBC to cut hundreds of jobs at World Service

Broadcasting House, the headquarters of the BBC, as it appeared in 2014.
Broadcasting House, the headquarters of the BBC, as it appeared in 2014. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons, Graphic by The Desk)

The BBC will eliminate nearly 400 jobs and reduce programming output at its international broadcasting arm as part of a cost-cutting strategy.

The measure comes as the London-based global broadcaster seeks to eliminate £28.5 million (about $31.8 million) from its annual budget amid a reduction in revenue.

As part of the move, the BBC said it would lay off 382 workers at the BBC World Service and close down several localized versions of the network, including radio feeds produced in Arabic, Chinese and Hindi. BBC Persian will also stop broadcasting into Iran.

A spokesperson for the BBC said online-only streams will continue to be made available in languages and countries where over-the-air BBC World Service broadcasts are stopped.

The English-language version of BBC World Service will shift its programming strategy to focus more on live news and sports coverage, a move that will see a significant reduction in audio documentaries and interview shows.

The BBC is financially supported in large part from a tax levied on British households that watch live television. The tax, known as a broadcast license, costs around £160 (about $180) per year and applies even if a household watches live television through a streaming service or non-television device.

Earlier this year, government officials said they would freeze the BBC’s funding and shift away from the broadcast license model, even as it increases the fee on households through 2027. The license is expected to be eliminated completely from that year onward.

In May, officials at the BBC said they would invest about £300 million (around $380 million) in content that could be easily distributed on streaming platforms and through global broadcast partners in the coming years. The network said it aimed to have around 75 percent of its domestic viewers consuming shows and movies through its streaming service, BBC iPlayer.

As part of the shift toward streaming, the BBC said it intended to close some of its domestic and international broadcast channels. The strategy announced in May called for the eventual merging of the domestic BBC News channel with the international BBC World News television network.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).