Wednesday, June 28, 2006

BBC Monitoring in the grip of gloom and despondency

The following submission was received by Pro-Veritas from a verified email account used by BBC Monitoring staff.

An atmosphere of gloom and despondency has descended upon BBC Monitoring as staff in the Caversham headquarters and the overseas units try to come to terms with another part of Director Christopher Westcott’s “transformation” agenda: the purging of experienced staff.

On Friday 23 June, the results of the reselection of middle managers (known internally as Band 9s or Duty Editors) were announced. Of the 40 or so incumbents who had been required to choose between reapplying for 20 jobs or taking redundancy, only 12 had been reselected. The remainder could either opt for redundancy or go through the selection process a second time but on this occasion also having to compete with staff on lower grades who will be allowed to apply for the middle-manager jobs.

Among the approximately 20 staff who will almost certainly lose their jobs will be some of the most experienced in BBC Monitoring.

One member of staff described the outcome of the latest boards as “a double whammy - the obliteration of experience and corporate memory in one fell swoop”. Speaking over the telephone from one of BBC Monitoring’s overseas units, the staff member, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution, said the atmosphere in the unit was “morbid”, with everyone wondering “who’s going to be next”.

The latest reselection of middle managers had been preceded by three rounds of interviews for senior posts. These returned an all-white cast in an organisation comprised of many nationalities, fuelling suspicion among many staff of a hidden agenda to turn BBC Monitoring into a “white redoubt”.

Sadly, there is only more instability - and arbitrariness - to look forward to. In an email to all staff on Friday 23 June, Mr Westcott announced that employees on lower grades - the sub-editors and chief sub-editors (or Bands 6 and 7) - will also have to undergo reselection, but this time a reselection like no other. He said: “Newly-appointed Band 9s and their Executive Direction colleagues will have one-to-one conversations with Band 6/7s during August about their preference. We will then begin to inform staff of the outcome and their options on 1st September.”

In plain English, this means that the sub-editors and chief sub-editors will not be boarded for their jobs. Instead, whether or not they will have a job will be decided in a chat with their line managers. And if they happen not to get on with their line manager? Tough!

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