BBC bosses unable to provide answers, even to its own staff, of how the channel will serve UK viewers in the event of breaking news.
In three months’ time, BBC World News and BBC News Channel are due to complete their merger to create a single service for audiences in the UK and around the world. But, according to BBC sources speaking to The Sunday Times, the service could end up with “the softest launch, so as to be indiscernible”.
Under the BBC’s proposals, the new TV news service would offer opt-outs for viewers in the UK, carrying simulcasts of news programmes on BBC One and BBC Two. Outside of these simulcasts, the BBC is due to retain a back-up facility allowing the channel to breakout of the international schedule to show UK-specific breaking news.
The report cites sources within the BBC who say bosses are not able to say how this break-out stream will work. Staff fear the service will be under-resourced. On the new service, presenters will be expected to manually work the autocue.
Meanwhile, a number of presenters, including David Eades and Joanna Gosling have already announced that they are leaving. Remaining presenters have had to undergo screen tests for a chance to appear on the merged BBC News service. Additionally, a number of senior producers are reportedly heading for the exit in April.
Already the BBC has been gradually stripping away elements of the BBC News Channel, removing favourites including The Film Review and The Papers. Most evening, overnight and weekend output is already shared across both news channels. This also indicates a soft-launch, with many of the most controversial changes out of the way before the official merger.
Ofcom says it is following developments closely.
There has been no public consultation on the changes.
Image: BBC News Channel screenshot