Questions have been raised about why the BBC has recruited Sunday Times business editor Dominic O’Connell to join Radio 4’s Today programme despite a claimed freeze on external recruits.
BBC director general Tony Hall announced an external recruitment freeze for BBC News in September 2014 after 400 redundancies were announced across the department.
However a Freedom of Information Act disclosure to Press Gazette revealed at the end of last year that BBC News has taken on at least 243 external candidates since introducing the freeze.
At the time the BBC said the external recruits mainly fell under the “exceptions policy” covering overseas hires,.
O’Connell replaces Simon Jack who becomes BBC business editor.
Announcing his appointment, BBC business and economics editor Jasmin Buttar said: “The business slots on the Today programme play a big role in setting the business news agenda for each day so it is great for the BBC to have such a high calibre, agenda setting journalist taking on this position.
“Dominic has exceptional contacts in the business world and a track record in original journalism that will be invaluable to Today and the BBC’s business news more widely.”
O’Connell has been business editor of The Sunday Times since 2010.
BBC union reps have written to the corporation’s HR director complaining about the move.
The letter, quoted by The Guardian, states: “BBC NUJ chapels are dismayed that an external candidate has been engaged as the Today programme business presenter. This vacancy was open only to internal candidates. Many of the applicants have already done the job.
“The job description says: ‘He/she will be a skilled broadcaster with proven interviewing skills … He or she will be a strong writer and be interested in creative radio and video production. Radio packaging skills will be an advantage.’ To our knowledge, Mr O’Connell has no broadcasting experience.
“BBC applicants were assured that it would be an open and fair process. However, Mr O’Connell was seen twice in the past month in NBH, the second time to do an audition, while the internal interview process was under way.
“When the BBC applicants learned they had been unsuccessful, they were told that James Harding wanted someone who could break stories. The NUJ then made clear our belief that there are several suitable internal candidates: highly qualified, experienced, award-winning who regularly break stories, but the BBC pressed on with its invitation to Mr O’Connell.”
A BBC spokesman said: “It was a fair and open process, which adhered to our recruitment policy.”
BBC staff surveys have found that recruitment processes are a major concern for staff.