BBC commits to exploring ‘alternatives’ to proposed classical performer job cuts

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The BBC has said it is committed to exploring “alternatives” to cutting classical performer jobs at the corporation.

The broadcaster had previously announced plans to scrap its in-house chamber choir, the BBC Singers, and reduce salaried orchestral posts across the BBC English Orchestras by around 20%.

Instead, the corporation said it will work with the Musicians’ Union for another way of creating “sustainable” performing groups – which include the symphony, concert and philharmonic orchestras – as well as delivering recommendations of a review last year.

There are four proposals, including collaborating more with partners across the UK, investing more in education, opening up the classical sector as a place to work and innovating to bring classical music to new audiences.

Musicians’ Union general secretary Naomi Pohl said that during the last two weeks the union has had “more positive discussions with the BBC” and believes the corporation has listened to industry and members’ “concerns”.

She added: “While we appreciate the financial challenges faced by the broadcaster in the current climate, we have always been fierce advocates for their unique role in the sector and we will approach this consultation with a focus on building on what they do rather than paring it down.

“There are many issues to discuss but our objective will be to protect jobs and look initially at income generation and greater use of the performing groups within the BBC itself. We will consult and involve our members throughout the process.”

The broadcaster will also consult the Musicians’ Union and other unions on alternative models to fund the BBC Singers.

The announcement follows the Classical Music Review looking at the classical sector and the BBC’s role within it.

The new strategy also includes doubling funding for music education and launching new training initiatives, and creating a single digital home for its orchestras.

Independent Society of Musicians chief executive Deborah Annetts said her representative body “remains concerned about the future of the BBC Singers” and there should be a “guarantee” that the group will continue with public funding.

Ms Annetts also said: “On the face of it, this announcement looks like a positive move from the BBC, but we will need to see the detail to understand fully how this will impact on the long-term future of the BBC performing groups.

“There has been an incredible international public outcry about the BBC’s plans to axe the BBC singer and orchestral jobs which has undoubtedly played a large part in today’s announcement.”

Alex Gascoine, chair of the Musicians’ Union’s executive committee and steward of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, said: “The MU understands the challenges caused by a gradual decline in funding for music and the arts in the UK.

“We will continue to represent and consult our members, lobby the Government and work with the wider arts sector to ensure the most sustainable future for our industry and its artists.”

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