Costing behind the scenes 

5 May 2004

BBC slashes documentary jobs

Perhaps too easy to overlook is this story that could potentially have deep and very serious repercussions for the quality of factual programming in the UK; put simply, the BBC has decided to make some redundancies in its specialist factual department, meaning that at least for the near future the emphasis will now be placed upon “eye candy” CGI special effects such as for the forthcoming Pompeii documentary as opposed to the more labour-intensive (read: expensive) research required for less ‘flashy’ forms of factual content. Although the number of staff affected is relatively minimal, it is the intention behind this cutback that is of far greater concern.

This move may also signal the greater use of outsourcing as well as independent production companies for future projects of this nature (as this Government seems determined to move the BBC in this direction), but it’s likely that the quality of much of the BBC’s factual programming – no matter how superficially trivial – will suffer as a result. And as in the case of the ITV regional centre redundancies, particular programmes are being used as a scapegoat; in ITV’s case it was the axing of Crossroads and the BBC is using the discontinuation of Tomorrow’s World and Animal Hospital as its excuse to make further budgetary ‘savings’.

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