Director James Harding wants more movement in News

James Harding at BH James Harding will create a news editor role

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James Harding wants people in News to move more quickly from job to job.

The director told staff that 'new timescales on job tenure' would help staff make more of their time at the BBC, with editors expected to move on after eight years in a role and junior journalists able to request a change after three.

'I want to get as many people through the organisation, finding new opportunities, as possible,' said Harding, as he delivered his vision for the future of News and Current Affairs on Wednesday.

While sensitive to the difficulties of achieving this aim in certain parts of the division, such as foreign bureaux and local and regional offices, 'that can't deter us from trying', argued the director.

He said he would now look at the mechanisms, both voluntary and compulsory, to achieve this cultural shift.

Performance review

In the wake of bullying allegations within News, Harding acknowledged the need for 'more candid conversation' about managerial shortcomings.

He revealed that senior managers would be the focus of a new 'rigorous' performance management review, to be completed before Easter.

And while he spoke of an intention to 'de-layer' the management structure where possible, he also announced the creation of three new senior roles at the heart of the newsroom.

A news editor, reporting directly to Harding and his deputy Fran Unsworth, will work with programme editors to drive the daily agenda.

The editor will have two deputies - one to be based in planning 'so that we don't lose sight of a story amidst the demands of the day to day'; the other to take responsibility for weekends 'so that we keep delivering our best work to what are often our biggest audiences'.

Time for research

Meanwhile, the newly appointed head of newsgathering Jonathan Munro will control a new News Impact Fund, with the aim of boosting original journalism.

'We will bring together people from every relevant area - whether Global, English Regions or Current Affairs - to work on stories collectively,' explained Harding. 'And we will use the fund to free people up to devote the time and resources to stick with a story.'

He praised the part played by current affairs output ('so much of what we do hangs from it; so much of our strength depends on it') and called its best output 'exceptional'.

But he added: 'I don't think we generally punch our weight.'

The solution, he believed, lay in investing more time in researching a story before committing it to a programme and costly production time.

'We need to change how we work in order to have a better idea of what we've got, before we commit it to a programme, and we need to be willing to move a story between programmes,' before adding that a story should be pulled if it's not good enough.

Boost for Ouch!

He announced other new developments including a NewsLabs team, which will draw on the work already taking place in data and visual journalism and will have a brief to develop new formats.

And a disability news unit will be created, with six or eight more people boosting the Ouch! team to deliver disability news, first for online, but with radio and tv also in its sights.

'The Ouch! team does heroic work, but it's small,' reasoned Harding.

Speaking more generally on diversity, he believed there was 'an even bigger issue off-air' than on-air that needed to be addressed.

He said he didn't favour quotas, describing them as 'clumsy intervention', but hoped that as part of increasing movement within the division there would be more opportunities to nudge diverse candidates towards relevant posts.

Learn from Newsbeat

He called for more sports news, consumer and personal finance news and arts and culture news on domestic outlets, and suggested teams learnt from Newsbeat 'about the kinds of stories we should be chasing and how to deliver them'.

And he announced he would appoint on-air editors for education and health - with one of those posts likely to be based in Birmingham or Salford.

At local stations, he sought the development of more formats designed to challenge the powerful, while he wanted more material from World News and the World Service to make its way to UK audiences.

All of this, of course, will have to be achieved within the context of a reduced budget.

The 'unsettling and wearying' cost-cutting would go on, admitted Harding, as DQF continued its march, with more 'substantial' savings to be announced later next year.

'We will have to look not only at efficiency savings, but cutting the scope of what we do,' he admitted. That includes not doing some things.

But he insisted: 'We are a walking argument for how you can do both quality and quantity.'

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