Taxis drive `Today' into a financial crisis

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The Independent Online
RADIO 4'S flagship Today programme is spending so much money transporting people, including guests, to its new studio in White City that it could not afford to send reporters to East Timor or the earthquake in Turkey, BBC insiders said yesterday.

The programme's total transport costs have doubled to nearly pounds 180,000 since its staff and studios were moved out of Broadcasting House in central London to Television Centre at the farther flung White City last summer.

Taxis for guests arriving in the early hours now rarely clock up bills under pounds 10 each - and the costs are affecting the programme's journalism, according to senior BBC sources.

A temporary edict has forbidden Today producers from commissioning any reports at all from foreign correspondents and stringers who are not already accounted for in the budgets.

Insiders on the programme complain of low morale due to the move to White City, and severe budgetary constraints. "The atmosphere in the studio is so different from the old days in Broadcasting House," said one insider. "So many politicians don't come in to do eyeball-to-eyeball interviews. Gordon Brown, for instance, used to come regularly to Broadcasting House, but I'm not sure he has ever made the journey out to White City."

BBC staff say they are hoping for more investment in the programme when Greg Dyke takes over as director general next April.

"Foreign coverage is undoubtedly being affected," said another. "The decisions about East Timor and the earthquake in Turkey are both examples."