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Broadcaster agrees to explore alternatives to proposed 20% cut to roles at the BBC Symphony, Concert and Philharmonic orchestras.

The BBC Symphony Orchestra

dcwriterdawn/Creative Commons

The BBC has pledged to explore alternatives to proposed cuts to its in-house orchestras following discussion with the Musicians' Union (MU).

The cuts, which were announced in March, would have reduced roles in the BBC Symphony, Concert and Philharmonic orchestras by 20%.

But today (13 April) the BBC said that while it still needs to make savings, it will work with the union to explore alternatives.


The development comes three weeks after the BBC suspended proposals to close the BBC Singers, which were announced alongside the proposed cuts to orchestras.

"Following our recent discussions, we want to confirm that, whilst the BBC needs to make savings, we are committed to working with the MU to explore alternatives to the proposed 20% post closures in the English Orchestras," a statement put out by the BBC said.

It added that the alternatives will seek to create sustainability for its performing groups and to deliver the recommendations of the 2022 Classical Review.

The BBC said that this includes collaborating more with partners across the UK, investing more in education, doing more to open up the classical sector as a place to work, and innovating to bring classical music to new audiences.

"In exploring alternative proposals, we will also invite independent experts from across the sector to work with us and the Musicians' Union," the statement added.

"In parallel, we remain committed to consulting the Musicians' Union on progress regarding the alternative models being proposed for the BBC Singers."

Positive discussions

Naomi Pohl, MU General Secretary, said the union had been having "postive discussions" with the BBC for the past two weeks in relation to the orchestra proposals.

"We believe they have listened to the concerns of the union, our members and the wider industry," she said.
"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."

Alternative income

The BBC had previously said - in June 2022 - that it wanted to explore alternative sources of income to fund its orchestras in the face of savings requirements of £200m across the corporation.

However, concerns were raised at the time by then Chief Executive of the Association of British Orchestras, Mark Pemberton, that any attempt by the BBC to boost income from ticket sales and other commercial activity could impact on independent orchestras.

"There is only a finite market, so if they up their competitiveness in the marketplace inevitably it would mean taking it away from someone else," he said.