BBC blunders blamed on cuts

A series of blunders at BBC News is being blamed by insiders on a shortage of personnel following last year’s staff cuts.

The creation of a new integrated online, TV and radio BBC newsroom at Television Centre has also been cited by some as a cause of the slip-ups.

The latest mistake came when the BBC News channel prepared to announce a verdict for one of the defendants in the trial for the murder of special constable Nisha Patel-Nasri on 22 May. The channel appeared to mix up the verdict with that of another murder, that of Magda Pniewska, 26, a Polish care assistant, who was shot dead in London last October.

The Old Bailey verdict in the Pniewska case was given on 22 May but the Patel murder verdict was not given until almost a week later on 28 May.

The BBC also apologised on air for broadcasting a picture on the Ten O’Clock News on 19 May that it said was of dozens of people killed by the Burmese cyclone, but was in fact a photograph from the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.

And last week the BBC made a further apology for a report aired on television and online on 20 April which claimed that a factory making Adolf Hitler dolls illustrated the rise of neo Nazism in Ukraine, when in fact they were made in Taiwan.

One insider at BBC News said: ‘While it might be difficult to precisely say that these mistakes are due to staff cuts, all the editors and producers say it is becoming harder and harder to make the whole thing work because it has been cut back a lot.

‘When you lose quite a lot of people it does have an impact. When people are sick it starts to get very thin on the ground in terms of the number of producers available to work any slot.”

Sources at BBC News said the staff cuts had started to make an impact across the platforms. The lack of producers is making it difficult to do as many interviews as previously and to arrange and bid for interviews.

A source said the newly integrated newsroom is also ‘chaotic”, with some presenters sitting far apart from editors.

Another BBC News staffer said that with tighter resources, mistakes became inevitable: ‘With smaller teams doing the same amount of work and putting up more materials there is more scope for cock-ups.”

The cuts, part of corporation wide savings announced last October, will see between 355 and 370 redundancies in BBC News and current affairs over five years. Staff said they expected things to get worse in the coming months as those taking voluntary redundancy leave.

A BBC spokeswoman said: ‘The three separate editorial errors occurred over a period of time when BBC News was responsible for thousands of hours of output. They each had separate causes on which BBC News has individually commented.

‘However, BBC News believes that none of those individual errors can be attributed to the introduction of the new multimedia operation. That new operation is delivering significant benefits for all BBC News audiences, through the greater sharing of the BBC’s strongest journalism.”

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