United Kingdom

Rise of the BBC women as male news hosts are axed

They have been the mainstay of BBC's regional news bulletins for decades.

But as the corporation's cost-cutting operation gathers pace, dozens of its older male journalists have filed their reports for the very last time.

Twenty-nine regional news reporters and presenters have left or announced their impending departures in recent weeks, analysis by the Daily Mail has found – 82 per cent of them men who between them have more than 500 years of service at the BBC.

The departures have left lone women presenting the news in three of the seven English regions where previously a mixed-sex duo acted as hosts.

Two become one: Look North duo Harry Gration and Amy Garcia before he left the show last month

Earlier this year it was announced that seven of the 20 presenters on 6.30pm regional TV bulletins will be cut, and some local radio shows will be axed. Regional news programmes with two presenters were told one would be removed.

Among the departures is BBC Look North's Harry Gration. He presented bulletins alongside Amy Garcia, 39, who remains in her role.

Gration, 70, who was awarded an MBE in 2013 for services to broadcasting, left the corporation on October 21, after 38 years in the role. 'I'm incredibly sad, I've been very emotional about it,' he told the Yorkshire Post.

Justin Leigh, who has been with the BBC for 33 years, left his presenting role on BBC Spotlight, covering Devon and Cornwall, last month leaving Victoria Graham as lead presenter. Elsewhere, BBC East Midlands Today waved goodbye to presenter Dominic Heale, 59, who first appeared in 1993, on October 23 leaving Anne Davies as solo anchor.

Split: East Midlands Today’s Dominic Heale and Anne Davies

Twenty-four men who had reported on a number of major stories for their local communities – including the Harold Shipman murders and the Dunblane shootings – are among those leaving local BBC TV news.

Nine men also stepped down from prominent roles at local radio stations where some had worked for more than 30 years. Just five female presenters and on-screen journalists have also decided to leave the corporation in recent weeks.

The exodus coincides with legislation which came into force on November 4 implementing a £95,000 cap on redundancy payments. A BBC insider said many veterans wanted to leave before the new ruling so they would be entitled to larger payouts. It is understood those departing have accepted voluntary redundancy.

A BBC source added: 'Every region has to reduce to a single main presenter for its 18.30 programmes and this accounts for some of the recent higher-profile departures of long-standing newsreaders.' The BBC has refused to give figures for how many people have accepted voluntary redundancy so far.

Old pairing: Victoria Graham and Justin Leigh on Spotlight

Some on-screen staff announced their departures prior to the legislation change – and it is likely dozens of people who work off camera also made the decision to leave prior to November 4.

Others believed to have taken voluntary redundancy include BBC Spotlight reporter Hamish Marshall, who worked on the programme for 25 years.

Veteran sports reporter Mark Shardlow departed BBC Midlands Today after more than 30 years and reporter Peter Wilson left his post on that programme following 23 years of service.

The redundancies are part of a massive cost-saving operation at the BBC, which in 2016 was faced with making savings of £800million by 2022.

An extra £125million in savings had to be made this year due to the pandemic.

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