A centralised editorial team is likely to produce a lowest common denominator of news and comment, with none of the informal and trenchant questioning encountered on Today and Newsnight. Terminating the character and autonomy of BBC programmes of this calibre will both impoverish the quality of public life in Britain and undermine the BBC's unique and longstanding reputation for objectivity and excellence.
The explanations so far offered by the BBC's management have been confusing. On the one hand, listeners have been assured that there has been full consultation on the changes, over a year or more. On the other, news programme editorial staff have declared, both publicly and privately, that there has been little or no consultation. The insensitive comment of a BBC spokesman, to the effect that Mr Birt's decision could not be changed, and that only details could be discussed, does not elicit confidence.
It is crucial that a matter of such importance to the future of the BBC be discussed fully, both within and outside the BBC, before any decision is confirmed.
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