BBC News Channel faces axe as Corporation starts review into cost cutting

Director of news and current affairs James Harding warns that the department faces some tough choices in the coming year

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BBC News has launched a root and branch review of its operations in a bid to save millions of pounds that could potentially lead to the end of the BBC News Channel as we know it.

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Head of news James Harding told staff that a review he launched yesterday will have implications for BBC News over the next decade, and warned that it “can’t afford to do everything” as it faces millions of pounds worth of cuts.

The director of news and current affairs, called a meeting on Friday to tell staff they are “set for a defining year”.

“We are going to have to make choices,” he wrote to staff in a blog. “Technology is transforming the news. Audience expectations are changing, too. And the funding settlement for the BBC requires both cuts and the reallocation of spending.”

The BBC needs to find an initial £5m in savings as part of the Corporation’s overall target of £150m in annual savings by 2017 and it was going to come up with the best options after a three-month review on the future of BBC News.

A further £550m in annual savings will required across the corporation by 2021/22 as it faces cuts brought on by the new licence fee settlement and BBC News will need to take its share of the cutbacks.

One area that is understood to be under consideration according to sources is the BBC News Channel which has already been earmarked for possible changes by director general Tony Hall.

In a speech in September, Hall pointed to the BBC’s problem in looking after its core audience and responding to a technological transformation. Hall described this as “having to ride two horses”.

Hall’s speech at the Science Museum suggested the BBC News Channel could exist side-by-side with a digital video strategy to serve the differing needs of more traditional and tech-minded licence fee payers.

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“We start from a position of strength,” said Harding yesterday. “But we can’t afford to do everything. We’re going to encourage discussion across [BBC] News of the options open to us. And, then, we’re going to choose. We will distil the ideas into a programme of reforms and investments.”