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BBC News at One moves to Salford as annual plan outlines 1,000 hours of commissioning cuts

The BBC News at One is to relocate to Salford and extend to a full hour under sweeping savings and reinvestment plans set out by the broadcaster today.

The move will mark the first time a daily BBC national news bulletin has broadcast from outside London, and alongside a 15-minute daily extension to BBC Breakfast marks a significant gain in daily airtime at the BBC’s Northern base.

The plans will also “increase its streaming offer on BBC iPlayer and the BBC News app; and bring more in-depth, analytical, and high-impact reporting to its online audiences. A new BBC News Investigations unit will be created, and areas such as BBC Verify will be boosted, with new reporting and production roles,” The BBC said.

The announcement is the next phase of BBC News’ evolution from broadcast to digital-first journalism, and forms part of the BBC’s strategy to deliver value to all of its audiences, wherever they live and whichever platforms they use. This draws on research which shows audiences particularly value online breaking news, high-impact investigations, and forensic verification.

Linear TV audiences for BBC News have declined by 11% over the last five years, while the frozen licence fee and rampant inflation mean the BBC needs to make around £500m of savings.

BBC News and Current Affairs CEO Deborah Turness said: “Like many businesses, we are in a tough financial climate and as our audiences shift rapidly from TV to online news consumption, we need to make choices about where we allocate our resources. While TV and radio remain crucial to BBC News, we must invest in our digital platforms to ensure they are also the home of our very best journalism, and today’s package of measures will accelerate this transformation.”

The package also includes a reformatting of BBC Newsnight, based on audience feedback which showed what consumers value most from today’s programme – high-quality, consequential, news-making interviews, discussion and debate.

Newsnight will remain as a nightly BBC Two TV programme from Mondays to Fridays, but will become a 30-minute interview, debate and discussion show which “draws on the best of the BBC’s talent and news-making interviews to make sense of the day’s news.”

A number of roles across Newsnight’s reporting, production and operational functions will be phased out as a result – reportedly around half of the show’s circa 60 dedicated staff.

Deborah Turness adds: “Audiences have told us how much they value Newsnight as an iconic BBC debate and discussion programme, and we’ve listened to what they’ve said – we’ve made the decision to keep the programme on air five days a week, despite the financial challenges we face.

“Newsnight has also been a source of great investigative reporting and films but we know that people are consuming the news in different ways, and it can no longer make sense to keep a bespoke reporting team for a single television programme. We will offer more to audiences by investing to ensure the best investigative journalism and reporting is produced – and consumed – across the whole of BBC News.”

As part of this, a new BBC News Investigations Unit will bring together the best investigative talent across BBC News. New roles will be created in financial and political investigations.

There will be a new drive to “bring the depth and analytical strength of BBC broadcast journalism to its online audiences, creating a new in-depth digital experience which will be a destination for the best of the BBC’s analysis and thought-provoking journalism online.”

A dedicated team will commission “premium” analysis from editors, specialists and experts around the world, and curate daily content including the best of the BBC’s written articles, podcasts and radio moments, investigations and documentaries in one place. Followers will be able to take part in digital live events with experts and receive extra exclusive content.

The plans will also provide more resource to guarantee the speed and quality of 24/7 digital journalism and digital streaming, building on the success of online live pages, so consumers are getting the best of BBC journalism around the clock.

There will be a restructure of BBC News’ story teams in the UK, with a focus on digital storytelling and live coverage, and a reduction in the amount of television packaging as the BBC moves to digital-first.

The changes will also involve the creation of specialist roles with open source intelligence and policy analysis expertise within an expanded BBC Verify, the specialist investigative team.

Although the plans include post closures, there will also be new positions, including a new UK editor role which will be created in Salford; a Royal Editor; new correspondent and reporter positions covering AI, financial and political investigations, employment and housing. The changes are designed to focus on areas which are of particular interest to today’s audiences.

Heidi Dawson, head of Salford and controller, BBC Radio 5 Live and 5 Sports Extra, said: “BBC News at One will join an exciting line-up of major BBC brands that already broadcast from the heart of Salford and Manchester, including BBC
Breakfast, Morning Live and BBC Radio 5 Live. We are committed to ensuring that the North West continues to be a creative powerhouse, and this move not only makes certain that we better reflect and serve our audiences across the whole of the UK – it also guarantees that we deliver trusted, informative and impartial news for all.”

Richard Frediani, Editor, BBC Breakfast, added: “As a proud Northerner it’s a privilege to oversee nearly 30 hours of television content from Salford every week. Breakfast has been the number one choice for morning viewers since moving to Media City a decade ago and I’m confident the One will continue to reflect the stories and issues of audiences across the UK.”

Overall, the BBC Annual Plan sets out a reduction of 1,000 hours in content commissions. BBC News will close the Our World strand on the News Channel, and make nine fewer hours of single documentaries each year for BBC Two. Panorama will continue as the flagship current affairs brand on BBC One, with no change in the number of hours.

The changes will start to take effect from January 2024, with the launch of the extended BBC Breakfast, followed by the relocation and extension of the News at One from May 2024.

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