Birt revolution begins to be dismantled at BBC counter-reformation

BBC news is to climb down from John Birt's policy of requiring all news staff to work both for radio and television, it emerged yesterday. A gradual U-turn will begin with a management reshuffle to be announced within weeks.

BBC news is to climb down from John Birt's policy of requiring all news staff to work both for radio and television, it emerged yesterday. A gradual U-turn will begin with a management reshuffle to be announced within weeks.

The BBC has spent millions implementing the bi-media policy, introduced five years ago. Staff say it has serious limitations. "It was obvious from the start that some people are better suited to radio and others to television; anyone could have seen that," said a news producer. Another said: "Full bi-media has never become a reality. For any big story we need to send one person for television, another for radio and a third for News 24. One person simply could not do everything."

A change of personnel at the top of BBC News is expected to result in the appointment of a separate Head of Television News and Head of Radio News. Under bi-media the two jobs were combined in the single post of Head of News Programmes, symbolising the bringing together of all television and radio output.

The reshuffle will start this month when Tony Hall, the chief executive of BBC News, announces a replacement for his deputy, Richard Ayre, who retires at the end of the year. The new deputy will be put in charge of an internal review of "production processes", which is widely expected to recommend the controversial reintroduction of the two posts. The process, being gradual, is designed to avert the publicity that would surround a sudden U-turn, news insiders said.

While a large number of reporters and correspondents will continue to work both for radio and television, the change in management structure will, it is hoped, correct some of the negative consequences of bi-media working and formally recognise its limitations.

The system, according to its critics, tends to favour television to the detriment of radio and has resulted in both television and radio producers being too busy to stay at the cutting edge of production skills.

The BBC admits that it is running television and radio production workshops to try to improve employees' craft skills.

Foreign correspondents such as John Simpson have described how bi-media working and the expansion of BBC news outlets have required them to file more than a hundred reports from the field during one day. However, the restructuring is not expected to have any impact on their workload.

Other BBC reporters say there is an increasing emphasis on "pretty faces" for television news, a policy which is fundamentally at odds with a bi-media approach. However, the overall increased flexibility of staff is recognised as a benefit, and will remain.

The new heads of television and radio news may eventually question the need for BBC News' three "executive editors", insiders added.

The creation of the executive editor post sparked a public furore two years ago, when presenters John Humphrys, James Naughtie and Anna Ford complained publicly that the new structure would lead to "homogenised" news output.

At the time, the BBC implemented a partial backdown, which would be complete if the current review process gets rid of the posts altogether. However, the move is not expected imminently.

* Bureaux are to be opened in Shanghai, Tehran and Seattle, Mr Hall said. It is part of a move to establish the BBC as "a major global news player".

The Shanghai announcement follows recent difficulties between the BBC and Peking over the way it reports news about China, while the Tehran bureau is being opened at a time of greater tolerance of Western influences.

"Shanghai and Seattle reflect the importance of those cities in terms of business stories," a BBC spokesman said, referring to Seattle's significance as a centre for the computing industry and the home of Microsoft. "And Tehran is politically important."

The new bureaux will help address recent criticism that the British media has cut back foreign coverage, and follows a declaration by the BBC that it is determined to seek quality rather than ratings in its output.

BBC news will, said Mr Hall, also soon be available on mobile telephones. "On the next generation of mobile phones you'll get most, if not all, of what you currently get on the Internet through a modem.

"I want our news to be wherever people want it . That is why, in the near future, we will be announcing a number of strategic partnerships with mobile-phone operators and technology providers throughout the world."

The developments were presented to a conference of international news broadcasters, as BBC News' strategy for "the third age of broadcasting", in which news on the Internet will be particularly important.

"We're finding that on those days when really big stories break," Mr Hall said, "more and more people are turning to our online site either as the first source of news or to get more up-to-date information.

"For day one of Kosovo last March we had 2.3 million page impressions. For our last major story, the Paddington rail crash, we had 3.7 million in a day - a record."

News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm that there was a 'minor disturbance'

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
News
i100
News
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Programmatic Business Development Manager

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: As the Programmatic Business Dev...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Trainee Recruitment C...

European Retail Sales Manager, Consumer Products

competitive + bonus + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: My client is looking for an...

Sales Director, Media Sponsorship

£60000 - £65000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A globally successful media and ...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album