Sunday, December 18, 2016

Wrong direction

As upper floors of Broadcasting House are cleared by those departing for BBC Studios (cheaper office space), and new desks are laid out for the recruitment of hundreds of foreign language journalists, the uneven strategy of Director of News James Harding is thrown into jagged relief.

The new journalists are arriving on the back of £289m of Foreign Office funding. A substantial slice of that funding will go into the hands of Newsgathering and technical support, giving them some respite from domestic cuts. Yet at the core of the BBC's international offering, last week saw the closure of the post of Editor, World Service (radio) Bulletins. The current incumbent has been 24 years in the World Service, and, at that level, is the last editor dedicated to selecting and leading a team of journalists making sense of a world agenda for radio audiences around the clock.

Managerially, those shaping and writing bulletins for World Service (English audience 66m) now report through the Editor of the 6 O'Clock News on Radio 4 (weekly reach 11.5m) upwards to the Editor, Radio Newsroom. Meanwhile, for the Foreign Office, there are ads for Editors for Punjabi, Gujurati, Telugu, Amharic, Tigrinya and Afaan Oromo.

But then, James Harding is also presiding over a £4m cut in the BBC Monitoring budget, from £13m, and a longstanding plan to merge the role of domestic and foreign duty editors in Newsgathering....

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