Wednesday, November 18, 2015

More thinking needed

More on the cuts to come at BBC News. Director and Presenter James Harding has said that half of his £5m target will come from BBC Monitoring, subject to approval by the BBC Trust. He's looking for more commercial revenue from the operation, headquartered at Caversham Park, and probably on the move soon, but expects jobs to go as well.

In a memo to staff (full details on Press Gazette) he's irritatingly vague on how the remaining £2.5m will be found. "We are reviewing our working practices, terms and conditions to identify ways in which we can work more efficiently and in a fairer and more consistent way. We have begun to look in detail at how we currently operate, including the efficiency of our current rotas and scheduling and how well our rotas meet the needs of our services and programmes."

He might also consider whether he's really running a 24-hour operation. Cuts to weekend and overnight staffing at BBC World/News Channel and BBC World Service meant the services were either unable or barely able to roll beyond 1am as the horror of the French shootings and bombings emerged in the early hours of Saturday. This morning, I got first news of the Saint Denis shoot-out from CNN, as BBC World juddered on with a paint-drying repeat of a HardTalk interview with a former Brazilian foreign minister.

James goes on: "We are also looking at how we compare with the rest of the industry. Once that analysis is complete, we will want to talk to everyone in News and to consult with the trade unions as we develop principles for the future followed by detailed proposals for changes. We expect to be able to share more information about our initial ideas and approach early in the New Year."

Having spent an exciting year on The Future of News, with a few side trips, it seems James needs even more time to develop "principles for the future". Staff will wonder whether the comparison is to be made with ITN, where everything is so obviously more efficient, or The Times.

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