A Midland BBC boss who ran a department hit by bullying claims at the Mailbox is leaving the broadcaster.

Cath Hearne, who was in overall charge of Midlands Today, five BBC local radio stations, Inside Out and The Politics Show, has announced her departure to staff at the Birmingham offices.

She has said she is quitting her job as head of regional and local programmes to pursue an as yet unspecified new career.

Her four-year plus reign in Birmingham was punctuated by controversy, notably over bullying allegations.

In September 2010 staff at Midlands Today passed a vote of no confidence in management amid claims of widespread bullying and intimidation at the Mailbox.

An emergency meeting, attended by officials from the National Union of Journalists, led to no confidence votes against Ms Hearne and then acting editor Mark Hayman, who also left the BBC a month ago.

Just six months earlier in March 2010, journalists on the BBC teatime news programme had complained to BBC English Regions Controller David Holdsworth that staff were ‘systematically bullied.’

An independent inquiry undertaken by Leek-based Developing People Ltd later said there had been no bullying at Midlands Today.

The broadcaster later refused to release a report into the intimidation claims following a Freedom of Information request from the Birmingham Post.

In March 2012, long-serving Midlands Today presenter Suzanne Virdee quit in another row over alleged bullying, with the National Union of Journalists issuing a statement deploring her treatment by the corporation.


Suzanne Virdee
Suzanne Virdee

 

It later emerged that the newsreader had been unable to fulfil the final two days of her contract following claims she had been ordered to leave early.

Ms Virdee, who had worked for Midlands Today for 11 years, was later awarded a cash settlement after dropping her threat to take the BBC to an employment tribunal.

David Holdsworth, Controller, BBC English Regions, said: “Cath will be a great loss. She is a consummate professional with vast experience of both the BBC and English Regions.

“We will miss her energy, passion and editorial ambition. Output in the West Midlands has been strengthened under her leadership, alongside a greater commitment to collaborative working, staff development and external partnerships. She will be a hard act to follow.”

Ms Hearne said: “I will miss working with talented colleagues who produce great programmes – so many of them are good friends and I’ll be staying in touch. After 20 great years in broadcasting I’m very much looking forward to facing new challenges. It’s time for an adventure.”

Ms Hearne is from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and originally trained as a teacher. She joined the BBC in 1993 as a current affairs researcher in Newcastle; she directed and produced Network and regional programmes and in 2000 joined BBC Nations and Regions HQ as Editorial Co-ordinator.

In January 2007 she was appointed Head of Regional and Local Programmes for East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, based in Hull, and has been in her current role for BBC Midlands in Birmingham since February 2009.

The process to find a new Head of Region for BBC West Midlands will begin immediately.