The BBC’s director of news, Richard Sambrook, has put up £1m to encourage fresh ideas in his department.
The fund will be available over the next year for the most innovative idea for TV, radio or online. The member of the news department who comes up with the most creative idea, either editorial or technological, by the end of January, has also been promised a chance to work on the project.
The launch of the news innovation fund coincided with Sambrook’s warning that a 25 per cent drop in news viewing represented a generation gap in audiences that was a demographic "time bomb".
"There’s a generation, growing older which just doesn’t sit down and watch news as their parents did," said Sambrook. "If we don’t do something, in 10 years it’ll be the under 55s and then the under 65s who don’t watch."
Sambrook said this week that the aim of the innovation fund was to "kick-start new activity in priority areas". The scheme follows the launch of a review of the BBC’s political coverage, carried out by Newsnight editor Sian Kevill, in a bid to find ways of attracting younger audiences.
Announcing the scheme at the BBC’s news festival last week, Peter Horrocks, head of current affairs, acknowledged that Sky News had stolen the march in pioneering rolling and interactive news. "News is not always at the forefront of innovation but if we don’t innovate there’s a danger we will get left behind," he said.
Speaking at one of the training sessions, the controller of BBC1, Mark Thompson, who has since been appointed chief executive of Channel 4, praised the current affairs department for its innovative work.
By Julie Tomlin