BBC News channel set to cut back on presenting on location

Co-hosting from the scene of big international stories no longer a requirement, says BBC Trust

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It’s long been a bugbear of BBC News viewers: the channel’s tendency to react to big foreign stories by employing dual presenters, one of whom is at the scene. 

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Radio Times readers have often remarked that this can result in sending a high-profile studio presenter overseas at considerable expense, to do a job that might better be done by normal updates from the local correspondent.

Co-presenting from the scene of big international stories was, in fact, a stipulation of the BBC News channel’s licence but, as the corporation looks to cut costs, the BBC Trust’s service review of the rolling news station has removed this requirement.

“In future,” the Trust said in its report, “decisions on how to present international stories will be based solely on editorial merit rather than a specific service licence requirement.”

The Trust also removed the requirement to provide “business and personal finance news” every hour, in an effort to save money.

The Trust’s report, which follows an extensive consultation with viewers, acknowledged – but then rejected – another common complaint about the BBC News channel: “Many respondents would like to see more global news covering a greater range of issues and countries from around the world, particularly with less emphasis on the USA and more coverage devoted to European news,” the Trust said.

However, it went on: “The Trust has not found compelling evidence that the current approach to international news needs to be changed.”

The Trust praised the general quality of the BBC News channel’s output, reporting that it is “viewed by audiences as a benchmark for rolling news coverage, with around 50 per cent of adults rating [it] best for continuous news; this compares with 23 per cent for Sky News.”

The Trust further observed that the channel reached 19.9 per cent of UK adults each week in 2010/11, up from 11.5 per cent in 2006/07. 

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The report stressed that BBC News must “ensure that it maintains clear areas of distinctiveness in an increasingly crowded marketplace” and that “efficiency savings [should be] delivered in such a way that the News Channel can continue to deliver the high-quality international news that audiences expect.”