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January 23, 2020updated 30 Sep 2022 8:51am

Victoria Derbyshire speaks out over BBC decision to take show off air

By Freddy Mayhew

Victoria Derbyshire has spoken out for the first time about BBC plans to take her eponymous show off the air, saying she is “devastated” by the news which she first learned about through press reports.

The BBC has now confirmed it intends to end the Victoria Derbyshire Show’s television run after five years in fresh cuts to news services, after initially refusing to comment when the news broke yesterday.

In explaining the decision, BBC News director Fran Unsworth pointed to changing audience behaviours that have seen viewing figures for traditional “linear” programming, as opposed to on-demand, continue to decline.

But the move has been met with outrage from journalists and politicians, who have praised its ability to cover social issues among under-served communities that are often not reported elsewhere.

The BBC appears to have left room for the show, which airs simultaneously on BBC Two and the BBC News Channel from 10am weekdays, to perhaps move online, where the broadcaster said it “makes a huge impact”.

“We remain committed to building on that and giving those stories the widest possible audience across our outlets,” the BBC said.

BBC News needs to find £80m in savings by 2021/22.

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In introducing her programme this morning, Derbyshire said: “We are still here telling your stories and covering the issues that are important to you in your life, and you know what we don’t give up.”

She has since tweeted: “Absolutely devastated at the plan to end our programme (which I first learned about in yesterday’s Times).

“I’m unbelievably proud of what our team and our show have achieved in under five years breaking tonnes of original stories (which we were asked to do); attracting a working class, young, diverse audience that BBC radio and TV news progs just don’t reach (which we were asked to do); and smashing the digital figures (which we were asked to do).

“I’m gutted particularly for our brilliant, young, ambitious, talented team – love ‘em. And for all those people we gave a voice to. Love them too.”

Journalists who work for the Victoria Derbyshire Show took to Twitter last night to voice their shock after having been told the news, describing it as “gutting” and “devastating”.

The programme first aired in April 2015, under former BBC News director James Harding, and attracted a relatively low TV audience in its first week, with 2m viewers across both channels, while 7.4m watched online.

Speaking shortly after the launch, Derbyshire told the Telegraph: “We are the first digital-first news TV programme. We are putting all our films or clips or extracts of films online first, the day before [we broadcast]. Audience habits are changing dramatically.”

In a message to staff today, Unsworth said: “This has not been an easy decision.

“Over the last five years, the programme has delivered award-winning, distinctive journalism, exploring topics which the BBC has not traditionally covered.

“From its ground-breaking interviews on abuse in football to uncovering the complications caused by mesh implants and revealing failures in the tax credit system which affected working class women, the programme has championed important stories and fresh reporting talent.

“This is exactly the type of journalism we need to continue, reaching audiences who are often under-served by the BBC, and we will be retaining some of the programme’s journalism roles to enable us to continue this work. We will outline further details of this next week.”

Unsworth said of Derbyshire that she is a “hugely talented and engaging presenter and will continue to be a central part of the BBC News team”.

“She will be taking a wider role across our broadcast and digital output and will continue to lead on some of the high-profile audience events and original stories she has championed so effectively in recent years.”

She added: “I would like to pay tribute to Victoria and her whole team who’ve worked so hard, and achieved such great results, over the past few years.

“However, audience behaviours are changing. Linear television viewing is declining, and as we progress with our £80m savings target, it is no longer cost-effective to continue producing the programme on television.

“The show’s journalism makes a huge impact online, and we remain committed to building on that and giving those stories the widest possible audience across our outlets.

“The people affected directly by this change have been informed of this proposal. This is part of a wider series of changes which we will be announcing next week. I know times of change are never easy and I want to thank you all for your professionalism throughout.”

The decision comes just days after BBC director-general Tony Hall announced he would be stepping down this summer.

A petition to save the Victoria Derbyshire Show has be signed by more than 4,200 people within 24 hours.

Broadcasting union BECTU had criticised the leak of proposed News department cuts, which were first revealed in the Times before the BBC’s media editor confirmed the Victoria Derbyshire Show would face the axe.

In a message to members, BECTU chief Philippa Childs said: “…for individual members to find out to find out about proposed cuts and the potential impact that may have on their livelihoods through the press is disgraceful, disrespectful and totally unacceptable.”

The union revealed the BBC had been “hugely disappointed by the leak” and had “apologised unreservedly for it” when they met this morning.

The BBC is expected to set out its proposed savings in the News department to BECTU on Monday, with the plans still subject to consultation.

“Members can rest assured that we will be testing the genuineness of their intent on these commitments and ensuring that they fully consider alternatives and counter proposals as well as doing everything possible to mitigate the individual impact of any savings initiatives,” said Childs.

Picture: BBC

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