Around 450 of 3,000 jobs will be cut in BBC’s English local and regional TV, radio and online news, initially through a voluntary redundancy programme, it was announced on Thursday.
The cuts are expected to save £25m by 2022 and follow the BBC’s earlier announcement it must save £125m this year due to financial pressures caused by coronavirus.
As part of this, seven out of the 20 6.30pm regional TV news presenting roles will be axed, putting the roles of Annabel Tiffin and Roger Johnson on Salford-based North West Tonight at risk.
At the 39 local radio stations including BBC Radio Lancashire based in Blackburn, the four-hour show slots put in as a temporary simplified schedule during the Covid-19 crisis will be retained and local programming will end at 6pm.Each will now have three shows with one presenter every day and any two presenter shows will go down to one.
A petition called ‘Keep the North West family together’ has been launched on Change.org and backed by hundreds of people, including former presenter Gordon Burns.
It urges: “BBC England have announced that regional news programmes will only have one presenter- this means that Roger and Annabel with Owain! (Wyn Evans) in the studio together may be a thing of the past- we can’t let this happen!
“North West Tonight is a community show- it isn’t just news, and the presenting team make it feel like home.“Don’t let them take this away especially after the way they have pulled the community together during the pandemic – it’s cruel and unnecessary to change a winning format in the name of cuts.
“Save North West Tonight- we need Roger, Annabel and Owain!”
Gordon Burns, who presented the show with Preston’s Ranvir Singh until 2011, branded the proposals “utterly insane” on Twitter.
He said: “My heart goes out to all my old colleagues and friends at BBC NWT facing ridiculous jobs cull in local news progs.
“We even have to lose one of the two excellent presenters @annabeltiffin or @RogerJ_01 – worse still they have to apply for the one job. So cruel and utterly insane.”
Helen Thomas, the director of BBC England, said the corporation’s local and regional services were created more than 50 years ago, and “have changed very little and need significant reinvention.
“We are in the age of the Facebook community group and the WhatsApp neighbourhood chat.
“We must adapt to better reflect how people live their lives, how they get their news and what content they want.
“We’re going to modernise our offer to audiences in England by making digital a central part of everything we do. We’ll take forward lessons from Covid-19 that will make us more agile and more in touch with communities while also ensuring we’re as efficient as we can be.
“I’m confident we can evolve our local and regional services while improving our impact and better serving our audiences.”