Covering the world

Other broadcasters may have been scaling back global operations, but not the BBC. Fran Unsworth, head of newsgathering at the corporation, explains why it is maintaining its worldwide network of 41 bureaux and continuing to showcase its reporters

Altogether we’ve got 41 foreign bureaux for a foreign newsgathering team of 250 people, with a total budget of £35m. On top of that figure, the World Service pays us £9m for the journalism we give them.

Altogether we’ve got 41 foreign bureaux for a foreign newsgathering team of 250 people, with a total budget of £35m. On top of that figure, the World Service pays us £9m for the journalism we give them.

We have seven “hub” bureaux: Washington, Brussels, Johannesburg, Moscow, Delhi, Beijing, Jerusalem. We moved the hub bureau for South East Asia from Singapore to Beijing about a year ago. Singapore has fantastic communications as a jumping-off point, but the trouble was we wanted to do more out of China.

We spend a significant amount of money on Baghdad because we have to fund the security, and because it’s a hardship post and we cannot keep people there permanently, so we spend a large amount on turnarounds. Nick Witchell is there at the moment.

There are always decisions to be made on where to reinforce. Afghanistan was just one person but now we have quite a big operation with two correspondents – Alastair Leithead and Martin Patience – and a crew that goes with them.

Although 250 people might sound like a large operation, that includes correspondents, producers, local fixers, crews, engineers and drivers. In the Delhi bureau, there are around 110 people, but only 10 or 15 are working for newsgathering in English – the rest are working for the World Service. I don’t think you could say we have everywhere covered. I’m thinking of Africa, where we have a newsgathering bureau in Johannesburg, another in Nairobi and stringers in Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. That leaves a lot of space in the middle of the continent.

But most of our £35m comes from the licence fee. We have to demonstrate value for money for the licence fee payer. It’s the World Service audience that would like more material from that part of the world. We have to think of how much space stories from a particular bureau will get on the BBC news bulletins in order to justify the spending on the infrastructure.

Our priorities are the rise of China, the rise of India and the global economy. The Middle East also remains a big story, as does Afghanistan.

We are in Baghdad because it’s a big story, but we need to keep an eye on that. It gets on the bulletins a lot less than it did. Natalia Antelava, who is now off to Beirut, has been covering all of Central Asia from Almaty in Kazakhstan. We have three people in Moscow but that will go to two, and they will be covering news in 12 time zones.

We opened in Beirut a couple of years ago, just before the Lebanon War started. But we have scaled back in Europe to fund our operations in Baghdad and Afghanistan. Our rationale on Europe is that although Italy, Germany and France are culturally different from the UK, we can get there easily from Brussels. We have to flex according to our priorities and match that against our ability to respond quickly. We cannot flex by saying: “We need a brand-spanking new bureau, costing £1m, in this city.”

The new technology enables us to operate at a much lower cost. This is revolutionising newsgathering. During the Russian presidential election, we were doing live reports from Siberia for the cost of a local telephone call.

News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Extras
indybest
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Legal Recruitment Consultant

Highly Competitive Salary + Commission: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL BASED - DEALING ...

Digital Project Manager / Web Project Manager

£45-50k (DOE) + Bonus & Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced ...

Account Manager

£30 - 35k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Account Manager to join ...

Social Advertising Manager / Social Media Manager

£Excellent + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Social Advertising Manager / Social Med...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?