As an organisation, we are set for a defining year.
A year ago, people across the BBC worked together to create a report on our industry: the Future of News. Over the next three months, I’d like to draw up plans for ourselves: the Future of BBC News.
Technology is transforming the news. Audience expectations are changing, too. And the funding settlement for the BBC requires both cuts and the reallocation of spending.
We are going to have to make choices.
We’re going to start by opening up. We will share as much information as possible. Then, we’re going to listen hard. We’re going to encourage discussion across News of the options open to us. And, then, we’re going to choose. We will distill the ideas into a programme of reforms and investments.
We start from a position of strength.
But we can’t afford to do everything.
BBC News must contribute its share to achieve the £150 million of annual savings required to reach the shortfall to 2017 caused by the decline in TV household penetration. BBC News is committed to £5 million as part of this effort. As I said last year, we are also looking to make savings in how we run BBC Online; I will lay these out when I present the findings of the Online Creative Review.
The advertising outlook for BBC World News and bbc.com has become more difficult, which will require savings in Global News Ltd.
The BBC World Service has been awarded £35 million by the Government in the next financial year and £85 million in each of the three following years. We are now getting to work on implementing plans that will grow our global audience.
And by the spring we have to present a plan of how we propose to meet BBC News’ share of the £550 million annual savings required by 2021/22.
And this is the task of the Future of BBC News project. It is to set out how we are going to operate in the next Charter period.
We’ve identified four main areas where we think we will need to consider changes.
First, output. Where do we think people are going to watch, listen to, and get their news, and what do we want to do about it?
Second, content. What can we do to tell the story better?
Third, how do we ensure BBC News serves all audiences in the UK, regardless of age, identity, income, gender or geography? Young people are consuming less and less traditional media – how do we cater for them?
And fourth, the way we work. How do we invest in people, reduce costs, increase opportunity and improve the working culture?
Today, we have questions, not decisions. This is not an announcement of job cuts. It’s not even a statement on a savings target. It’s about setting our priorities.
The BBC is the most trusted brand in news. We are vigilant about our values. We are courageous and intelligent in our journalism. And we are leading the way in innovation in our industry. The choices we make now will determine the future of arguably the greatest journalistic organisation in the world.
James Harding is Director, News and Current Affairs