BBC cuts: a shift in what BBC News generates and how it’s shown

It can raise a few eyebrows hearing about cuts to news budgets. Gavin Allen, head of BBC News Output, went on Newswatch last weekend to shine some clarity on the furore around the latest wave of cuts and the decision to axe the Victoria Derbyshire Show.

– In trying to catch-up with social media aunty acted with haste over traditional Derbyshire
-Stories written by software during the general election

New targets

Gavin Allen made it clear in his interview with Newswatch on Saturday when he said “too many people just aren’t coming to BBC News.”

Allen, who joined the BBC in 1994 as a trainee and oversees all the daily radio and television news programmes, said where that un-tapped audience is consuming news output is through digital channels and this will be the shifting focus of the BBC News department.

“What we have to do is reach more audiences where they are consuming, which is increasingly digitally.”

One of the most surprising announcements of the cuts was the decision to axe The Victoria Derbyshire Show.

Allen explained in order to create these new digital platforms, a shift in cost base has to happen and that will be taken from more traditional formats like TV.

“What we are trying to gear towards is original journalism but if we are going to shift resources into new digital platforms we have to move that resource from somewhere else and in this case that means looking at our cost base on television.”

‘Story-led news’ to be at the heart of the BBC

The term ‘story-led’ has found itself prominently positioned at the top of copy about the cuts this past week.

The approach sees journalists assigned to stories instead of the more ‘linear’ model of reporting which attaches journalists to individual programs. There’s a belief this production structure is now the modern way to conduct news broadcast.

But Newswatch presenter Samira Ahmed raised concerns about the new philosophy saying efforts to share resources across content can threaten programmes to ‘lose their distinctiveness’.

Allen said this would not happen and that the principle reason of making these cuts is to get people to come to the BBC for their news which means changing the type and style of stories BBC News presents.

“We have to reach more audiences where they are consuming, which is increasingly digitally. We have to shift what we do and that means being responsive to the ways of telling stories and above all the sorts of stories we tell.”

The cuts

The BBC has been told it must make eight-hundred million pounds of ‘efficiency savings’ by year 2021/22.

Eighty-million of those savings will come from its news division with this round of cuts aiming to make up half of the intended target. The cuts include:

• 450 jobs
• Reduction in the number of films by Newsnight
Victoria Derbyshire cancelled
• Jobs cuts at Radio 5 Live,
• Around 50 post closures at the World Service (announced at the end of 2019)
• Cutting staff at Panorama

Victoria Derbyshire Show cancelled; viewing figures strong against Sky News but massively down on This Morning

When Ahmed asked Allen whether there would be a rethink on the Victoria Derbyshire Show Allen responded by saying, “these are proposals and we’re talking to the teams about them.”

Last week Derbyshire tweeted the most recent round of viewing figures which came in at 280,000, 9000 behind BBC’s flagship nightly current affairs programme Newsnight (the programme’s schedule is also being reduced).

Derbyshire went on to tweet Sky News daytime figures – 70,000 – while BARB (Broadcast Audience Research Board) estimates direct competitor ITV This Morning generates one million viewers a-day

Derbyshire said on Twitter she found out about the show being dropped through newspapers

What the BBC is trying to do

The BBC’s corporate jargon machine has produced a number of docile sounding phrases to describe the cuts and why they are happening.

• ‘Efficiency savings’
• Less emphasis for dedicated reporting on individual programs and strands
• Shift from radio and television to digital output

In the Press Gazette last week BBC’s Director of News And Current Affairs Fran Unsworth said; “BBC News is spending too much of its resources on traditional linear broadcasting and not enough on digital.”

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