So the uncertainty is over for BBC journalists. And it’s been replaced with-more uncertainty.
Mark Thompson’s keenly-anticipated announcement of his four-way review of the corporation on Tuesday was big on vision, but short on the detail that many of its staff involved in news and current affairs may yet find devilishly hard to swallow.
Not that the vision set out by the new director-general is unimpressive. His central commitment to the idea of excellence is certainly a crowd-pleaser, and most will be delighted to see news and current affairs right at the top of his list of the ‘commanding reputations’ of broadcasting. Likewise his outline for investment in journalism on BBC One, with more money and slots for Panorama and enhanced presence in the Middle East and across the Islamic world. And only the most enthusiastic tube user will bemoan his plan to move some divisions, including Radio Five Live, out of the capital and up to Manchester -for all the upheaval that will doubtless cause some individuals.
Staff at BBC Worldwide, too, will be heartily relieved that most of its magazines will still shelter under the BBC umbrella.
But where the uncertainty remains is that his Value for Money review means losing £320m of costs over the next three years, which means an average of 15 per cent cuts from many areas -one of which is news. Will this mean more jobs (other than the 2,900 admin and support roles already identified) being axed from editorial departments? We can’t be sure until, probably, next March when the Governors will “consider final costs and implementation plans for all recommendations, to ensure moves are in licence payers’ interests, before giving final approval”.
Thompson is walking a tightrope between getting government approval for the BBC’s charter renewal, due in 2006, and undermining its public service remit by instigating savage cuts that many staff feel are unnecessary.
So far, he seems pretty assured up there. But it’s a long way to the other side