Friday, July 10, 2015

Worth a read

This blog brought you first news of cogitations by BBC News management about the future of the News Channel on June 30.  It seems, sadly, they are still cogitating.

Yesterday, the first public 'friend' of the threatened service surfaced, with a thoughtful article about its importance from Roger Mosey, former boss of BBC TV News and Editorial Director, in the Guardian.

Within the hour, the network's best-known presenter, Huw Edwards, mused idly, head fully exposed above the parapet, to 28.5k followers, thus....

It's a live issue within The News Factory, and tensions are running high. James Harding's favoured idea remains moving BBC World News fully into the UK transmission slots currently occupied by BBC News. World News' advertising slots would then have short bits of 'News About Britain'. There is no plan to "move BBC News online", only to argue that the UK audience can already get more news online. A poor argument, that could be applied to BBC World News too.

I'm afraid also that BBC World News, despite more funding, remains a service of variable quality and vacillating editorial lines.  Since the demise of the World Service Centre Desk, it's had to develop international running orders without that steadying guidance, built up through years of "seen it before" sagacity.  Instead of a sure-footed agenda, it follows perceived peak audiences around the world clock. Sky News, with much less to spend on international news, has a better reputation with UK audiences for coverage of foreign stories. That's probably not at risk if this move goes ahead.

What is at risk is daily Westminster coverage, and once lower-ranking ministers and backbench MPs notice that their favourite practice ground is closing, there will be more snapping at Harding's ankles.
His judgement is losing him allies in many directions. Admirable though the ambition of the Victoria Derbyshire show is in uncovering a different UK agenda, rather a lot of News Channel money has been spent in delivering that vital "Homes Under The Hammer" audience without success on the channel or BBC2.

If the News Channel is to be a collection of newsy-type shows, save it by adding Newsnight, The Daily Politics, This Week and Question Time. That is, of course, the wrong answer. With the scale of the BBC's reporting resources, a channel that covers important UK stories and vital global events as they happen should be a given. And it's more than disappointing that James Harding doesn't get that.

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