BBC News staff fear 'savage' cuts as Damazer moves on

Mark Damazer: his move is crucial Helen Boaden: controlling coffers

Journalists believe Mark Damazer’s successor as the BBC’s deputy director of news will be part of a new guard expected to impose cost-cutting throughout the department.

Damazer’s job became vacant last week when the BBC announced he had won the coveted job as controller of BBC Radio 4 and the digital radio speech service BBC7, stepping into the shoes of Helen Boaden after her promotion to become the first female director of news in July.

His departure heralds further changes in the BBC’s news department which, in the wake of the Hutton inquiry, saw the departure of Richard Sambrook who moved to be Director of the BBC World Service and Global News.

Adrian Van Klaveren, currently head of the BBC’s newsgathering operation, is tipped to replace Damazer and is understood to be Boaden’s favourite for the job.

But it is thought Boaden and her deputy will be expected to preside over cost-cutting when the “value for money” review, announced by Mark Thompson shortly after he rejoined the BBC as director general, comes to an end in December.

That could mean a reduction in the number of specialist correspondents, which increased to over 100 under former director general Greg Dyke, and also the closure of some of the 40 overseas bureaux currently in operation.

While bureaux in Washington and the Middle East are considered essential, the question of whether the BBC can justify spending licence fee money running some of its smaller bureaux around the world is under question. The BBC’s commercial operation, BBC World, which uses the smaller bureaux more frequently, might be expected to carry the cost.

Changes to the way that the One O’Clock news is produced are also being considered. While it is thought that the BBC’s Six O’Clock and Ten O’Clock flagship news bulletins will be protected, the lunchtime bulletin might be brought under the umbrella of the News 24 production team.

A BBC spokeswoman confirmed that a value-for-money review is underway, but said that while ways of making the BBC more efficient were being looked at across the board, nothing would be finalised until after it had been completed.

But journalists anticipate the end of the review will signal the end of investment enjoyed by BBC News under former director general Greg Dyke.

“Since Dyke took over from Birt there has been a lot of spending and a lot of money pumped into News,” one senior journalist said.

“But now it seems an end of an era and we’re expecting Thompson to wield the knife fairly savagely, with major cuts in BBC News.”

By Julie Tomlin

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