The BBC sent 17 on-air journalists to cover one brief Brussels summit attended by David Cameron, it has emerged, as the corporation looks to cut the number of reporters it sends out to the same event.
BBC head of newsgathering Jonathan Munro shared the anecdote with staff in a meeting on the Future of News yesterday in which he revealed plans to “streamline deployments and limit duplication” on news coverage.
An internal email to staff also revealed a move to “enhance the strength” of the BBC as the “UK’s newsroom” with home nations and English regional coverage to be woven “more closely into the output of network news” – something believed to have been influenced by the Brexit vote.
As a result of the proposals it is expected the BBC will be less likely to send news anchors out on location to host evening bulletins, Press Gazette understands.
A BBC spokesperson said: “Sometimes it is the right call to send presenters as long as it adds to our journalism.”
The move comes as newsgathering at the BBC is facing a target of £1m in savings from April next year. A decision not to merge the BBC News Channel with World News, announced last week, means the channels face a 10 per cent budget cut.
Overall the corporation has targeted savings of £800m a year by 2022. It has already made £1.6bn in savings in total over the last four years through its Delivering Quality First scheme.
A BBC insider told Press Gazette there was an “ongoing struggle” to avoid duplication on news coverage due to programmes having their own budgets that could be used to send journalists to cover an event independently of those reporting for the “one, six and 10” bulletins.
Another example of duplication, according to the source, was local radio stations going to a big news event on their patch in a bid to find local lines when national coverage had a different focus.
“It’s that debate about whether you are getting something that’s different for a programme by sending someone on the team out there,” said the insider.
“It’s one of those ongoing struggles in a healthy news organisation. A healthy BBC is going to have programmes going out there to get extra coverage.
“If you have got a programme focusing on specific viewers then you are going to need something different for that audience, but then you run the risk of lots of journalists going to the same event.”
They added: “Munro was talking about more central decisions and having an oversight of who goes to those events.”
A BBC spokesperson said the review was “a message to the teams that we need to work together more closely on news coverage” but could not comment on what form that would take.
According to the Telegraph Munroe said: “At the recent Brussels summit where David Cameron went for dinner, we sent 17 on-air broadcast journalists. It’s hard to argue that they were all generating distinctive content – it was a summit after all, taking place in one building, over a few hours; not a few days.”