The BBC pre-empts Hutton

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

The Media section of The Guardian carries an interesting story on the shake-up within BBC News in light of the Gilligan “Sexed-up dossier” story: | Special reports | BBC tightens rules on single-source stories

The two key points are these:

  1. All single-source stories will only be broadcast after being carefully scripted.
  2. That senior journalists are to have their freelance writing careers abruptly ended, and will be paid financial compensation for this. Lesser ranking hacks may still write for other media, but will have their articles approved by BBC managers first.

The first point seems like a good call. I’m less convinced about the second. TV and radio news are surprisingly shallow media. They only allow a fraction of the words carried by any of the daily papers. When a state-funded broadcaster curtails the ability of its most prominent and respected journalists to write for other media it, in effect, deprives us of a conduit for hearing their more detailed analysis and reporting.

The obvious solution is simple: get these guys writing for BBC Online instead, rather than just reproducing the gist of the broadcasts in text. They still get to write more than they do at the moment, BBC managers retain a veto and the public get the writing for free.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 25. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.