Thursday, July 16, 2020


The covid-19 epidemic created problems for BBC News - but also produced the answers about how to keep going with fewer staff. And the answers have driven some cuts no management would have previously contemplated.

For tv shows, an expensive set of their own, with tailored graphic design, studio furniture, lighting,  and more, has been a 'given' component of necessary audience impact for years. Now it seems, Basement Studio B at Broadcasting, home to the wide-open spaces of Newsnight, The Andrew Marr Show and more, will be mothballed. No more opening shots of Emily and Kirsty, pivoting gently on their heels, as the camera pans across the full panoply of their set, like a purple disco-re-interpretation of the furniture floor at Selfridges.  It's a cut no-one would have offered, or asked for - but the truth is the reduced circumstances of epidemic-Newsnight have not offended the audiences.

Equally, though yesterday's announcement committed to a continuing future for separate output from the BBC News channel and BBC World News, audiences have had to take more from World during the pandemic, and the domestic viewing figures have increased.

In the creation of tv news reports, tables of planners traditionally chased contributors around the UK, using network studios, sat-trucks and dishes, to add 30" of talking heads to packages. The audience now seems comfortable with seeing the correspondent themselves making a Zoom call from their lap-top - and why not keep it that way ?

And during the construction of nearly all built output, editors and newsgathering have had to match their deployments much more closely to the available air-time. No point risking lives out there for packages that only 'might' get on. I suspect some of these cuts can now be made without the arrival of the Jedi-Knights of More Focussed Commissioning - Covid-19 has done the job.

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