W1 move is 'game changer' for World News

BBC World News studio Hi-tech studios are just part of the transformation of BBC World News

Look beyond the scramble for desks, the languid lifts and the revolving doors that snap at your heels like hungry Rottweilers and New Broadcasting House is a pretty fine place to be.

Especially for a news channel that is looking to bring down walls and build its reputation.

BBC World News - the commercially funded international news channel - moved into the building last week and is already reaping the benefits.

New, technologically advanced HD studios allow more dynamic and ambitious storytelling, while sharing a newsroom with the BBC's international and domestic journalists offers a wealth of ready content and expertise.

Start Quote

It's a chance for transformation... we are able to use all of the BBC's investment for the benefit of our audience”

End Quote Richard Porter Controller, English, Global News

Richard Porter, controller, English, Global News, describes the move to NBH as 'a real game changer' for the channel.

'A lot of things have come together,' he explains. 'It's a chance for transformation. It enables us to exploit the advantages we have across platforms and across languages; we are able to use all of the BBC's investment for the benefit of our audience.'

Built on springs

BBC World News now broadcasts from three new studios in the basement of NBH, built on springs to cushion the vibrations from the Bakerloo and Victoria lines running a metre or so below.

The main studio - which it occupies from midday to 7pm before Newsnight moves in - features two large presentation areas. Each area can be individually branded via coloured LED panels, operated at the press of a button, and one programme can prepare for broadcast while another gets ready to sign off.

'We were in a very small studio in the TVC newsroom before; now we're in the biggest studio in the building,' boasts Andrew Roy, BBC World head of news.

The channel can also call on a virtual reality studio for the first time, capable of creating anything from the South China Seas (as it did last week) to election graphics for its presenters to interact with.

virtual reality studio Virtual reality studio can become South China Seas

A third studio is home to the core BBC World News bulletins and features robotic cameras - more nimble than ever before courtesy of new software - and large, connected screens that can act as storytelling device or pertinent backdrop.

'The technology is an enabler of more ambitious journalism,' reasons Roy. 'And the screens let you tell a story without opening your mouth - the audience immediately gets what it's about. We have such an amazing canvas to work on.'

Business expert

But it's not all about looking good. Global News Ltd - the BBC subsidiary that was established last year and comprises World News and bbc.com/news - is ploughing profits back into its journalism. It has increased its commissioning budget, boosted first-hand reporting and made significant new appointments.

Lyse Doucet, just back after a series of reports from Syria, is the channel's chief international correspondent, while respected business journalist and economist Linda Yueh has just been named as chief business correspondent. She will be based in Singapore and tasked with telling the important Asian economic story.

Funded by Global News Ltd, both will feature on all BBC platforms.

In a refreshed schedule, Jon Sopel will front new daily slot Global, while Yalda Hakim - an Afghan-born Australian who speaks five languages - will be at the helm of a weekly current affairs programme which goes on air in the spring.

Meanwhile, sharing space has made it easier for the channel to capitalise on BBC News' network of reporters around the world - and, in particular, the work of the 27 language services based on the fifth floor of NBH.

Start Quote

Everyone who works for BBC News is capable of working for BBC World News”

End Quote Jim Egan Chief Operating Officer, Global News Ltd

'Everyone who works for BBC News is capable of working for BBC World News,' explains Jim Egan, chief operating officer of Global News Ltd. 'Making use of the language services, for instance, is an obvious competitive advantage.'

The recent World News investigation into the illegal ivory trade in Africa, which is big business in Asia, was carried out in the field by a Chinese Service reporter, who filmed undercover.

And on the Algerian hostage story, World News coverage was enhanced by contributions from across the BBC. It created a digital story community - a chat window for journalists to post interviews, eyewitness reports and story developments.

'We had everyone from BBC Afrique and BBC Arabic to the UGC (user-generated content) hub posting on there,' says Porter. 'We're using resources far more efficiently than before - we used to be in separate buildings and on different systems.'

Reputation first

Global News Ltd has made a profit for the last two years; its revenue comes in roughly equal measure from digital advertising, tv advertising and pay tv subscriptions from cable and satellite distributors.

Building revenue is important, admits Egan, as is growing reach; World News is Asia's fastest growing news channel, while recent breakthroughs in the US have put the channel in one in four US pay tv households.

Start Quote

You get a kicking these days if you aren't willing to share with the rest of the BBC.'”

End Quote Andrew Roy Head of News, BBC World News

Building reputation, though, remains the key measure of success, insists Egan, who believes the channel's popularity abroad can be advantageous for the wider BBC as it seeks co-production or distribution deals.

He hopes the company's stock inside the BBC will also rise as shared space brings greater recognition of shared purpose, despite different means of funding.

'I don't see a profound tension in the channel being commercially funded and having high-quality editorial values,' he says. 'We don't exist to make money; it's just that we can't exist if we don't make enough money.

'We share the same mission [as BBC News],' he insists. 'We are trying to achieve the same things.'

Signs are that the barriers are coming down, to mutual benefit. Andrew Roy puts it bluntly: 'You get a kicking these days if you aren't willing to share with the rest of the BBC.'


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