The BBC today revealed The Andrew Neil Show will end as the corporation slashes a further 70 jobs in BBC News, taking the total number of redundancies to 520.
The political programme had not been on the air during the coronavirus pandemic, but the broadcaster said the show will not return even as the crisis subsides.
In January the BBC announced plans to cut 450 jobs in a bid to save £80million, which included axing the popular Victoria Derbyshire Show.
The corporation postponed those job cuts and the decision to end free TV licences for the over-75s in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
That contributed to a further budget shortfall, meaning that the number of proposed job losses in news has increased by 70 posts.
The BBC today revealed The Andrew Neil Show will end as the corporation slashes a further 70 jobs in BBC News, taking the total number of redundancies to 520
From the ‘Empty Chair’ to Ben Shapiro: Andrew Neil at the BBC
The ‘Empty Chair’: Neil vs Boris Johnson, December 2019
Neil delivered a direct interview challenge to Boris Johnson during the 2019 General Election, telling him it was ‘not too late’ to accept his invitation to chat before the poll.
Mr Johnson had refused to be interviewed by Neil, who had spoken with Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn and the Lib Dems’ Jo Swinson.
During an ’empty chair’ moment, Neil said: ‘There is of course still one to be done, Boris Johnson. We have been asking him for weeks now to give us a date, a time, a venue. As of now, none has been forthcoming.’
‘It is not too late. We have an interview prepared. Oven-ready, as Mr Johnson likes to say. The theme running through our questions is trust – and why at so many times in his career, in politics and journalism, critics and sometimes even those close to him have deemed him to be untrustworthy.
‘It is, of course, relevant to what he is promising us all now.’
Neil vs Ben Shapiro: May 2019
Neil clashed with US conservative commentator Ben Shapiro on the BBC’s Politics Live last year.
Shapiro was subjected to a tough interview by Neil about previous remarks he had made, including ‘Israelis like to build, Arabs like to bomb crap’ and his support for new abortion laws in Georgia.
The American, formerly of Breitbart, then accused Neil of bias and suggested abortions after more than six weeks of pregnancy were brutal.
‘You purport to be an objective journalist,’ Shapiro said. ‘The BBC purports to be an objective, down-the-middle network. It obviously is not, it never has been, and you as a journalist are proceeding to call one side of the political aisle ignorant, barbaric and sending us back to the dark ages.’
Shapiro later said that he had been ‘destroyed’ by Neil in the interview.
Fran Unsworth, the corporation’s head of news, today announced that BBC News will instead concentrate on fewer stories, with journalists pooled in centralised teams rather than working for specific programmes.
The BBC News Channel and BBC World will continue to share some output, although they will remain separate channels.
Radio 4’s In Business and the Business Live page on the BBC News Website will also close, while business news bulletins on the BBC News channel will be reduced.
Ms Unsworth said: ‘Covid-19 has changed all of our lives. We are still covering the most challenging story of our lifetimes.
‘During this crisis audiences have turned to BBC News in their millions and I’m incredibly proud of what we, as a team, have been able to achieve.
‘But if we don’t make changes, we won’t be sustainable. This crisis has led us to re-evaluate exactly how we operate as an organisation. And our operation has been underpinned by the principles we set out earlier this year – fewer stories, more targeted and with more impact.
‘We’re aiming to reach everyone, every day. For BBC News to thrive, and for us to continue to serve all our audiences, we have to change.’
The BBC says it will have fewer reporters overall but that a new commissioning system will ensure coverage is coordinated.
A new original journalism team will also be created, incorporating several staff from the Derbyshire show, to pursue under-reported and exclusive stories. There will also be a greater focus on digital storytelling.
Broadcasting union Bectu said it would hold BBC management to account and seek to avoid compulsory redundancies.
‘BBC News is one of the most trusted brands at home and abroad. In an era of fake news and during an unprecedented health crisis this trust in a public service broadcaster is critical,’ said Bectu head, Philippa Childs.
‘The government needs to take back responsibility for free licence fees for the over-75s, providing precious resources that would allow BBC News to continue to provide its world-leading range of news broadcasting.’