BBC makes pledge on current affairs

Thompson: says BBC is too London-based

The BBC has promised to beef up its public service remit by “restoring serious current affairs on television, particularly on BBC One,” as part of its proposals for charter renewal launched this week.

News and current affairs will receive a further boost with the planned launch of 60 local news bulletins of 10 minutes an hour to be broadcast on interactive television.

According to the broadcaster, the intention is to bring the same degree of “localness” to television that radio currently achieves.

The regions are set to benefit further after BBC chairman Michael Grade and director-general Mark Thompson promised to shift investment and jobs from London to the rest of the UK.

Thompson admitted to the BBC being “far too London-based and this is simply not acceptable for a modern public service broadcaster that draws its income from all parts of the UK”.

As such, Milton Keynes will become a central England regional television centre creating a new news programme to cover Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire.

The programme effectively splits the BBC Look East regional bulletin, broadcasting to around three million viewers to the west of the current Look East catchment area. The regional centre will also incorporate BBC Three Counties Radio, which will move from Luton.

Tim Bishop, head of regional and local programmes at BBC East, said the plans would bring more local and relevant news to viewers.

In the nations the BBC will spend more on covering the devolved parliaments of Scotland and Wales and on programmes in indigenous languages such as Welsh, Gaelic and Irish.

STRIKE BALLOT SUSPENDED

The NUJ has suspended its ballot to strike after the BBC returned to the negotiating table with a new annual pay offer of 2.9 per cent.

The union will meet next week to consider the revised offer, which is 0.2 per cent above the original proposal, and 0.1 per cent above inflation.

However, BBC management has said the offer was conditional on the understanding “that the industrial action ballot is withdrawn and that the BBC offer is presented to union members with a positive or at least neutral recommendation”.

The NUJ and Bectu rejected an earlier offer of 2.7 per cent because it fell short of the 4.3 per cent rise in the licence fee earlier in the year. NUJ and Bectu said the BBC could have tabled a more generous offer, after pay was held just above inflation for two years.

By Wale Azeez

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