I should have known that in asking BBC News users about their views on editorial diversity (see my last blog), I would inevitably get a highly diverse range of views in response. Many commenters raised general editorial concerns, which I will deal with later. On the main question I posed – whether BBC News should move in the direction of greater diversity or greater coherence - there was a split with a small majority in favour of greater editorial range.
Many of you who supported stronger editorial coherence expressed surprise that the BBC had previously been organised in separate platform-based teams (ie different newsrooms for TV, radio and the internet). These users were concerned that the BBC deploys too many reporters to stories and they want us to be more efficient - but they also saw the advantage in having a similar agenda on our different services. And that seems largely about having a less tabloid agenda, especially on TV.
The other camp was keen to ensure that BBC News on the web does not reduce its range, in the words of one contributor that “however efficient a centralised news gathering service is, it’s the very diversity of styles and editorial decisions that gives richness to what the BBC does”. And some respondents replied, not unreasonably, that they would like both depth and range.
However, providing quality in both dimensions is a costly exercise. Under the BBC’s new financial settlement the Newsroom department that is responsible for the core news TV, radio and web services is due to make efficiencies of 5% a year for the next five years. So we need to find ways of being more cost effective while meeting the demands of users.
And you, our users, are very demanding. We wouldn’t have it any other way. But in the responses of a group of news enthusiasts, such as the respondents to the Editors’ blog are likely to be, there is a strong desire to have all BBC News on these users’ terms. We certainly will ensure that the largest part of BBC News meets your requirements for depth, complexity and sophistication. However the BBC benefits from a compulsory levy and, in return, should provide news that touches a large proportion of the population. Our aim is to ensure that 80% of the population watches, listens to or reads something from BBC News at least once a week.
Our most popular services are on mass audience channels such as Radio 1, Radio 2 and BBC One. Our aim for the news on those services is high quality, but accessible to a wide audience. Some news aficionados may occasionally find some of the news items on those popular services insufficiently in depth. I would ask such users to consider the good public reasons why the BBC seeks to keep its news accessible.
By reorganising, we can be more explicit in using these popular services as shop windows to the richness of BBC analysis and context, especially that which is available on the web and in longer TV and radio programmes. We will make it easier for our audiences to find their way between our different services, so that they can all get the news and information they need. And in doing so, we hope we will provide a common reference point of high quality information - for our audiences both in the UK and around the world.