The first stage of the BBC‘s newsroom integration project was completed on Monday as journalists from the corporation’s rolling television news service began working in a common newsroom with their colleagues from radio and television news bulletins.
BBC head of newsroom Peter Horrocks described this week’s changes as the first phase of the BBC’s effort to integrate its news operation across media.
‘The number of roles has been reduced significantly because we’ve had to make these big savings,’he said.
‘We’ve introduced some multimedia roles, but as people develop multimedia skills and once we’ve got all the platforms sitting alongside each other they can work together most effectively.”
Journalists from the BBC’s international news channel, BBC World News, and those responsible for the text-based sections of the BBC News website will be brought into the converged newsroom in the coming weeks.
When BBC Online journalists join the integrated newsroom in June, the online news operation will be split into two sections – one, covering world news, will join the BBC World News television team on the second floor of the newsroom; the second, the UK operation, will be on the first floor with newsdesks producing domestic radio and television bulletins.
‘The first phase of changes is multiplatform – because you’ve now got platforms sitting alongside each other, and we’re going towards multimedia where more people are working in an interfused way,’Horrocks said.
‘But in five years’ time there will still be people who will be working in the old way because if, for example, you’re doing breaking news, it’s going to slow you down if you’re working across more than one platform.”
The changes, which will see television, radio and online journalists working more closely together, have been in the works for the past year, since the smaller than expected licence fee settlement made the corporation decide to reduce duplication of its newsgathering operations.
‘There have been an awful lot of leaving parties around here recently,’Horrocks said.
The smaller number of remaining staff, he acknowledged, would occasionally find themselves stretched as they work across different platforms.
In the short term, he said, most journalists working in the BBC newsroom will continue to work primarily in the media that they have traditionally worked. Over time, producers will increasingly work across television, radio and online as staff are put through a training programme.
A centralised ‘Media Wire’desk now monitors audio and video feeds and passes stories on to the most appropriate outlets, and assignments will be controlled from a centralised planning desk.
Each desk will have a ‘web conversion producer”often drawn from the previous online operation, who will be responsible for extending stories originally produced for broadcast platforms online.
In addition, one senior editor will serve as the overall ‘multimedia editor’for the day, responsible for coordinating the needs of different media, allocating resources, taking legal advice and resolving any conflicts.
The organisational changes in the newsroom were reflected publicly with the launch on Monday of a £555,000 rebranding that will see the same red BBC News logo used across television and online.
The rolling news channel BBC News 24 has been rebranded as the BBC News channel, and its international version, formerly BBC World, has been renamed BBC World News.
‘In the era of Google News, it’s important that we constantly reinforce where the news is coming from,’said Horrocks.
Viewers of the BBC News channel will see the same new set and similar on-screen graphics throughout the day, even when the channel switches over to the one, six and 10 o’clock terrestrial television news bulletins.
The bulletins will, however, continue to have dedicated presenters and will provide an alternative to ‘the frantic pace’of the rolling news operation, featuring longer pre-prepared packages.
‘At one, six and 10 we will step back and take a longer look at the news,’Horrocks said.