Memorandum submitted by BBC World Service
This paper addresses the points raised in the
submission to the FAC by Pierre Vicary, the Father of the NUJ's
BBC News (World Service) Chapel. They are dealt with under four
Management and leadership
Assertion: The World Service's programme quality
and reputation have declined
Audience research shows that the
opposite is the case: with 151 million weekly listeners, audience
figures are at their highest level ever, as is the reputation
and trust enjoyed by the World Service. In addition, three independent
assessments of World Service output for the BBC Governors' World
Service Consultative Group have all come to the main conclusion
that "the authority and trustworthiness of the World Service
continues to be rated very highly".
In Addition, a survey among language
service staff at Bush House indicates a satisfaction rating of
80 per cent with services provided by the newsroom, up from 74
per cent and 78 per cent in previous years.
Assertion: After restructuring the World Service's
newsgathering needs have become a lower priority
The transfer of line management of
the English language journalists in BBC World Service to BBC News
has opened up to the World Service the full resources of a large
integrated newsgathering operation (50 bureaux, over 200 correspondents
in the field.) The result has been that newsgathering has been
able to cope with a vastly expanded volume of news programme production
for the World Service.
In the case of Assad's funeral, the
World Service not only had a dedicated correspondent (Barbara
Plett) in Assad's home village to provide colour pieces, but,
much more important, a dedicated correspondent in Damascus, where
international leaders had gathered, to provide in-depth analysis.
This would not have happened were World Service news still a stand-alone
Assertion: The Introduction of the new schedule
has damaged programme output
Specific research on programme quality
after the introduction of a new schedule last year demonstrates
that 50 per cent of the World Service's core audience think the
quality of the output has improved, only 13 per cent think it
has deteriorated. For a conservative segment of the audience this
is an extremely positive result. Far from making the output more
monotonous, the introduction of a 24-hours English news stream
allows the World Service to offer eight different regional schedules,
adapted to the needs of regional audiences across the world and
enables programmes to be scheduled at more suitable times of day.
Assertion: Salaries in the World Service are lower
than in the rest of the BBC
This is false. Salaries employees
in World Service News and World Service Lanuage Services are comparable
to those in domestic radio news.
A recent MORI survey among World
Service staff showed 71 per cent of those responding were satisfied
with the BBC as an employer.
Assertion: Bush House staff have the highest level
of nightshift working in the whole of the BBC
This is not the case. Other networks
such as News 24, 5 Live, Breakfast News and the "Today"
programme have comparable levels of nightshift working. Nightshift
working in Bush House complies with the strict regulations laid
down by the EU's Working Time Directive. In addition, journalists
in World Service News aged 55 and over have an exemption from
nightshifts. An increase in night pay was agreed with the trade
unions as part of the annual pay negotiations last summer. The
BBC has also proposed a joint working party with the unions to
look at benefits and reward issues. This working party is currently
Assertion: The policy of Fixed Term Contracts
has been pursued for too long
For a number of years the World Service
operated a fixed-term contract policy which was designed to bring
new talent into the Service at regular intervals. This was to
ensure that World Service output remained relevant to the target
audience and in touch with recent developments, although it was
often impossible for journalists to travel to the countries to
which they were broadcasting. However, in the current international
climate this policy was no longer felt necessary or appropriate.
As a result we have been progressively moving more people onto
continuous contracts over the past two years. Substantial progress
has been made. The proportion of staff in World Service Broadcasting
on continuing contacts now stands at 78 per cent; a year ago it
was 58 per cent.
Assertion: The introduction of NEON (replacing
the newspaper cuttings service) has made production work more
The traditional newspaper cuttings
service is still available for any journalist who wishes to use
it. However, the introduction of NEON, plus other online research
services, which supply a much wider range of source material,
plus vastly improved searchability, has led journalists themselves
to migrate from paper cutting to the electronic version.
Assertion: The introduction of ENPS (Electronic
News Production System) has been a failure
ENPS has become the international
benchmark for broadcast newsroom production systems. It is currently
used in nearly 300 newsrooms in 30 countries. But it is a new
system and it is still developing. Almost everyone who uses it
likes many things about itits research capability, its
links with the internet, the fact that there is now a common system
across the BBC which allows easy access to what everybody else
is doing. Some recent problems stem from the success of ENPSour
staff are using it more and more and this is putting some strain
on server capacity. This is being addressed.
3. MANAGEMENT AND
Assertion: The World Service lacks effective leadership
This is not supported by the available
evidence. In two staff surveys (ie for 1997 and 1999) which have
been conducted since World Service News was incorporated into
the domestic BBC News, the overall results show an increasing
level of support for the leadership of World Service.
The World Service has also recently
been accredited by Investors in People, a nationally recognised
award following an independent audit by an external assessor.
Investors in People looks for evidence that the organisation has
met a number of criteria including effective leadership, the existence
of a clear vision for the organisation, and commitment to the
organisation's goals by the employees. This evidence is gathered
through interviews with a randomly selected cross section of staff.
In his report for the World Service, the lead assessor stated
that "the interviews revealed positive staff perceptions
of World Service" and "the assessors detected strong
leadership skills at topmost management level."
Assertion: Ethnicity targets for the World Service
are too low, the NUJ would like to see targets of "25 per
cent say for all staff and 10-15 per cent for managers".
The World Service already employs
over 35 per cent of people from ethnic minorities across all grades
and 33 per cent in the middle management grades. There is, however,
more work to be done at senior level, ie the top two management
grades. There are currently 7 per cent of ethnic minorities within
senior management (which exceeds the corporate target of 4 per
cent), but we are far from complacent and have an explicitly stated
goal of improving this level of representation. To address this,
we have been working in full consultation with the unions on an
action plan to address development and succession issues regarding
these senior grades. The overall level of ethnic minorities representation
specifically in World Service News programmes managed by BBC News
is 14.9 per cent.
Assertion: The removal of the World Service name
shows a failure to understand the World Service's credo
Bush House is a multi-tenanted building
which, in addition to being the headquarters of the World Service,
is also home to staff from BBC News, Factual and Learning, New
Media, Worldwide and Resources. However, within the building World
Service branding is more clearly visible than ever before in the
areas occupied by World Service staff, with new display stands
on every floor and directional signs.
Assertion: World Service management is spending
the additional funding on new services rather than addressing
staffing and salaries issues
In the Spending Review 2000 the World
Service was allocated an additional £64 million for the period
2001-022003-04, ie a 3.8 per cent annual average increase
in real terms. The Treasury White Paper, published in July 2000
at the time the Spending Review Settlement was announced, clearly
defined how the additional funding should be used:
"The BBCWS will be funded to become
the world's reference point not only on radio but on the Internet
with expansion into more languages. The World Service will continue
to spread its FM presence around the world and plans to broadcast
in 135 capitals by 2004. The BBCWS will be increasing the amount
of customised and regionally focused material in its broadcasts.
Increased investment will also enable the BBCWS to maintain its
traditional audience on short and medium wave bands through the
renewal of key transmitters."
There are of course established channels
and procedures to discuss staffing and salary issues with the
Assertion: There is a chronic failure to plan
and maintain realistic budgets
The World Service's budgetary performance
is good, with an effective annual budgetary process and a high
degree of adherence to budget plans. Over the last full financial
year 1999-2000, total expenditure was within 0.8 per cent of budget.
Assertion: The new English schedule is under-resourced
The English network has received
a funding injection of over £6 million additional investment
since 1997-98. No other area of World Service activity has received
such a scale of investment over the same period.
Assertion: Not enough production effort has been
In some of the World Service's language
services an increasing proportion of production effort comes from
overseas production bases (Russian, Spanish for Latin America,
Hindi, Czech). The World Service constantly reviews the option
of shifting further production resources to the target regions,
including English programming, where this improves both output
In summary, the World Service is currently achieving
its highest audience ever, programme quality through independent
audience research is judged to be high and, indeed, improving.
We believe the investment priorities for online development, FM
expansion and improved audibility are the right areas to ensure
the World Service remains the most respected voice in international
broadcasting, bringing benefit to Britain.