Magazine article Variety

BBC News Aims to Rule World from West End

Magazine article Variety

BBC News Aims to Rule World from West End

Article excerpt

By July, the various arms of the BBC's extensive news operation will be housed in a single location - Broadcasting House, located in the heart of London's West End - for the first time.

The move, which began in March, involves approximately 3,(XK) journalists from BBC World News, the BBC World Service foreign language and English services, and the Beeb's U.K. newsgathering operation.

"We're aspiring to be the world's newsroom," says BBC World Service director Peter Horrocks, a fiftysomething U.K. BBC veteran of more than 25 years. "It's never before been properly unleashed and networked together."

Still, while the gleaming, S800 million ($1.3 billion) extension to the BBC's iconic 1932 base, costing in excess of £800 million ($1.3 billion) is a step up in facilities, it nevertheless comes on the chill wind of austerity. Recent cutbacks impacting all public services in the U.K. are hitting the World Service hard, even as it spreads its wings in the U.S.

Around 650 of the 2,000 journalists at the World Service, which celebrated its 80th anniversary earlier this year, are being pinkslipped as a result of a 16% cut in funding.

Unlike the BBC's domestic services, paid for by a licence fee levied on all TV-watching homes, the British state bankrolls the World Service via a grant from the Foreign Office. But this arrangement ends in 2014 and, from then on, the arm will be funded from licence-fee coffers.

Horrocks described the cuts, when they were announced in January 201 1, as "extremely tough."

But 15 months later the topper is upbeat as he oversees the move to the rebooted Broadcasting House and implements a strategy designed to generate more revenue from BBC World News and BBC.com.

The two services are run in partnership with the pubcaster's commercial arm, BBC Worldwide. It's a public-private mix; money from advertising and distribution deals go through Worldwide's balance sheet, and the profits are plowed back to help support the Beeb's domestic publicly funded activities.

"BBC World News and BBC. com news are both public service parts of the BBC, but supported by commercial activity," Horrocks explains. "They're both profitable, but their aim is not to make large profits, because the BBC wants them to invest in editorial content."

Of late, World News has beefed up distribution in Asia, The next target for the service is Africa, where World Service radio broadcasts traditionally have been strong.

"We know we need to develop our digital and television operation in Africa," Horrocks says. …

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