Sambrook: accepting the right job that came at the right time
BBC World Service and global news is to be overhauled in a move that will bring a greater coherence between its radio, television and online journalism, when newly-appointed director Richard Sambrook takes up the reins in mid-September.
Sambrook, who has just moved over from his role as director of BBC News told Press Gazette this week that the three elements of the service currently operated too independently of each other.
“The primary task is to pull together an international news strategy for the BBC across World Service, BBC World [television] and the international online sites,” he said, speaking from the Democrats Convention in the US.
“This is to make sure that they support each other and from an audience’s perspective around the world, that they have a coherence and are all clearly of the same brand and speaking with the same voice,” he added.
He said that editorially, and in terms of marketing and distribution, “there’s a lot further to go to pull the whole thing together.”
He insisted there would be no “big immediate personnel changes” at the World Service until he has spent time with the teams to understand “what the issues are for them.”
For BBC World, the priority is to try and get 24-hour distribution in the US, up from the current two hours a day on BBC America and half-hour on PBS (public broadcasting service).
He will also lead the bid to gain funding from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for the proposed BBC Arabic Television channel that would rival the likes of Qatarbased Al Jazeera in the Middle East and Europe.
The project just missed out on this year’s round of funding from the FCO and would hope to receive cash over the next two years, Sambrook said.
Sambrook’s move from director of news to be replaced by Radio 4 controller Helen Boaden has been widely seen as a consequence of his role in the Hutton inquiry and the unqualified support he gave to Andrew Gilligan over the fateful “sexed-up dossier” report. But he insisted there was no connection.
“I know people will always try and make a link to Hutton, but it’s the right job that came along at the right time,” Sambrook said.
“Personally I don’t think this is related to Hutton at all, and even if Hutton never happened this would have been a good and natural next move for me to make – because it’s the other big news senior role within the BBC and one that I haven’t done before. When you do these big director jobs, you can’t do them forever.
“And perhaps I should have done it for five years and not four but, in the end, the vacancy and the opportunity is there now, so I took it.”
By Wale Azeez