Thursday, June 23, 2016

Clock watchers

Former BBC News boss Richard Sambrook has co-edited a new selection of essays entitled The Future of 24 Hour News: New Directions, New Challenges. The publication comes two years after Richard asked "Have 24 hour news channels had their day ?", with a clear steer to the answer "Yes". Too costly, too format-driven, too unwieldy, prone to misjudgements and not reaching yoof was his basic verdict.

James Harding was six months into his job as Director of BBC News when the first Sambrook thesis emerged. He went on his own worldwide hunt for the The Future of News, but the two BBC News Channels (in English) have been twitchingly waiting for a tumbril ever since that day. Entertainingly, there are no essays from current BBC practitioners in the new book. John Ryley of Sky News gets a chapter, as does former Beeboid Peter Horrocks, now running The Open University.

And another former thought-leader Roger Mosey offers a fairly neutral review of the book. "The future of news is vital to our society, and this is a rewarding and exhilarating journey through contemporary television journalism and its digital challenges. I enjoyed the range of views and the provocations alongside the facts, and this book will leave you vastly better informed about a debate that matters."

I suspect Mosey's recent Radio Times article, on the current Harding option to merge BBC News and BBC World News, reflects his thinking more clearly: "A high-quality continuous television news and analysis service targeted at the UK is a reasonable expectation from the licence fee, especially in these challenging times. To weaken it deliberately would be a needless act of self-harm.”

Still, if the BBC Executive, left to make a decision in the face of vacillation/shroud-waving from Harding, does go ahead with a merger, then unlucky channel bosses might apply for the forthcoming vacancy as Professor of Journalism at Cardiff, a title Richard Sambrook has decided to hand on.

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