Row over World Service party

Bush House

Plans to mark the 80th anniversary of the World Service and its departure from Bush House have upset former staff, who feel excluded from the celebrations.

Former WS managing director John Tusa has declined an invitation from Lord Patten to a party on March 1 because former staff can't attend a separate party to be held at Bush on March 2. Current staff can buy tickets to the event, but no tickets are available for former WS workers.

Start Quote

It has been abjectly managed. Somebody should be ashamed.”

End Quote John Tusa former MD World Service
Tusa 'could not possibly attend'

Tusa has written to the BBC Trust chairman setting out his reasons for turning down the invitation. He said: 'I could not possibly attend an event from which they [former staff] have been shut out. It sticks in the craw. BBC World Service should have left Bush House in a blaze of celebration and achievement. Instead, WS Management crawl out having humiliated those who made Bush House great in a way they will never comprehend. It has been abjectly managed. Somebody should be ashamed.'

The BBC is marking the WS anniversary and its imminent move from Bush to the revamped Broadcasting House with three days of events. On February 29 the English service and many of the language services will broadcast live from the car park at Bush, followed by an 'opinion formers' event on March 1 and an evening party on Friday March 2 for the wider WS community.

BBC response

In a statement the BBC said: 'To commemorate the 80th anniversary of the World Service and the departure from Bush House, BBC World Service is planning a special day of programmes giving unique access to the building for our audiences.

To keep costs to a minimum, we have tagged on events for staff and opinion formers, which will be based on BBC premises and share the same facilities.

In a tight financial environment, staff are also being asked to pay for tickets. Whilst we appreciate this may not be welcomed by all staff, we have a responsibility to use our money carefully and prioritise our audiences.

Whilst we would like to be able to include a wider audience, including former staff, in a tight financial climate our priority has been to offer the limited number of tickets to current staff.

Current staff have been given a deadline to purchase tickets and any unsold tickets available after that datewill be offered to ex-staff to buy on a first come, first served basis. However, in doing so we will not be increasing the amount of public money spent on this event.

We remain hugely grateful for the contribution of previous staff and their role in serving audiences across the world.'

Re-think required

Ian Richardson, former head of WS newsgathering, runs the Bushlog News Exchange website for former staff. He too has written to Lord Patten and to Peter Horrocks. He told the World Service director; 'I have a pretty good sense of what retired staff are thinking. What particularly angers them is that while short-term contract employees and freelances can attend - admittedly for an admission fee - retired staff, a number of whom who served the BBC at Bush House for 30 years or more, are contemptuously not invited.'

Richardson told Ariel the offense caused to former staff was unnecessary, and that the BBC should re-think the access to the March 2 party.

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