BBC News 'should look for efficiencies'

BBC News ‘should look for efficiencies’despite being the cornerstone of the corporation, according to the deputy director general Mark Byford.

BBC News should be included in the savings being implemented Byford insisted in a media briefing this morning, despite calls from high profile journalists such as John Humphrys and Jeremy Paxman.

‘No area of the BBC shouldn’t be looking for efficiencies,” he said..” Just because BBC News is the cornerstone [of the BBC] does not mean we shouldn’t be looking at efficiencies.”

BBC News will, as expected, be hardest hit by the new six-year plan, unveiled by director general Mark Thompson this morning. BBC News & Current Affairs, which has 3,000 staff, will lose 475–490 posts across all departments over the next five years.

The BBC stressed that this would mean approximately 355–370 redundancies over the period, after natural turnover and redeployment of axed staff were taken into consideration.

BBC News is set to deliver savings of £155m over five years with an investment of £75m. This will equate to a 6 per cent increase in investment in journalism, according to Thompson.

Byford said that the BBC currently reached 85 per cent of the population but that the reach of TV news was down 5 per cent since 2001, radio news up 2 per cent and news online up 12 per cent since 2001 – an insufficient rise to make up the gap from TV News.

He said that BBC TV News had lost 2 million under-35 viewers since 2001 and the corporation had to act to stop its reach going below 70 per cent. Its 2012 targets are now to double online reach from 6–12 million and local reach from 4–9 million.

‘Journalism is in the eye of the digital storm. The challenge now is to hold unto that 85 per cent reach,’said Byford, who added that the aim was to maximise the news offering in a ‘3X3’fashion- through video, audio and text, locally, nationally and globally.

BBC News will establish an integrated multimedia newsroom and multimedia programmes department. Thompson pointed out that “major news organisations are integrating audio, video alongside text. We think we can do the same.”

He added: ‘This is a fantastic opportunity to migrate our journalism across the networks.”

Thompson denied that the changes would affect the diversity of BBC news coverage, saying that homogeneity or eradicating diversity of content was ‘not the point at all”.

An 8pm news summary on BBC1 will be introduced and a new news service on BBC Switch – its strand for teenagers.

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