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BBC creating three new editorial roles as boss Fran Unsworth says maintaining trust through impartiality a ‘clear priority’ for BBC News

By Freddy Mayhew

The BBC is creating three new roles – an editorial director, digital director and head of news output – as it declares maintaining trust through impartiality to be a clear priority in safeguarding the future of BBC News.

Head of news Fran Unsworth said in an email to staff on Wednesday that the BBC was “seen as the most trusted source of news in the UK”, but warned that “perceptions of impartiality are under pressure”.

BBC-commissioned survey, carried out by IPSO Mori last year, found that the BBC was the most highly rated news source on trust, accuracy and impartiality among those polled.

Unsworth also said attracting younger audiences was the BBC’s “biggest challenge”, adding: “Unless we can halt this trend we may weaken the arguments for a universal licence fee.”

To meet these twin priorities, Unsworth said she would be changing the editorial make-up of top management team the News Group Board by creating the three new roles.

The editorial director role, which is currently being advertised, will include responsibilty for “shaping future editorial strategy and story focus” and “maintaining editorial links across the BBC”, she said.

Current mobile and online controller Fiona Campbell will “refocus her role” to become the BBC’s digital director, responsible for digital – including BBC News online – and younger audiences strategy, said Unsworth.

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The new head of news output will head up a “multimedia daily news output and programmes team” replacing the separate daily news programmes, channels, and mobile and online teams, she added.

Unsworth said the BBC’s own News Awards, recognising the work of people across its news department, would relaunch in Spring next year.

She said: “I’d also like to see a real culture change at the BBC to make it a better place to work for everyone. This means creating more opportunities for you to move around, collaborate, innovate and connect with our audiences.”

The BBC still has to make cuts totalling £80m across its news department by 2021/22. On this, Unsworth said only that she would share more information with staff as soon as possible.

Last week the BBC has apologised to former China editor Carrie Gracie and admitted she was underpaid in her role, compared with other international editors who were men.

It also revealed on Wednesday that it had cut its gender pay gap by almost a fifth in the past year after “concerted action” began to reach parity by 2020.

Picture: Reuters/Neil Hall

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