Digital Spy

Search Digital Spy
2

Media News

Martin Bell: 'BBC should stop sending anchors abroad'

By
BBC sign at Television Centre

© Rex Features

Former BBC foreign correspondent Martin Bell has criticised the corporation for its "expensive and wasteful practice" of sending lead presenters to the scene of international incidents.

BBC News is understood to be readying major cuts to its 8,000 employees in the UK and abroad, as part of plans to secure annual savings of 20% to its budget.

Bell said that savings should be made by stopping the practice of sending presenters and anchors "somewhere near the scene of a news event and pretending that this adds value and authenticity".

He pointed to a recent admission by Helen Boaden, the head of BBC News, that the process of sending presenters on-location for major news stories had become "etiquette", but it was often not justified.

Boaden pointed to the appearance of Huw Edwards outside the home of a suspect in the Madeleine McCann case as being an example of an initiative that "probably wasn't the best use of our money".

Writing in The Guardian, Bell said that the practice of sending anchors into the field has become even more common with the advent of rolling news, which he feels often "shows more than it knows".

"The outcome of all these proliferations was not so much news as 'newsak' - the appearance without the reality. It was expensive, too. Anchors and sub-anchors don't travel at the back of the plane," he said.

"There was also the question of what did they actually know? Journalists in the field, tethered to their platforms and satellite uplinks, used to be described in the trade as "dish monkeys"; but they were not paid peanuts."

Bell added: "Occasionally, good journalism survived: George Alagiah escaped from etiquette captivity after the tsunami in Sri Lanka to file a memorable report from his home village near Batticaloa. But such opportunities were rare.

"Many good reporters choose at one point in their career to go 'inside' and are clearly yearning to come out again. But there is no middle way. Either they are there or they are not. Marooned on a hotel rooftop in Ruritania, they know no more at first hand than if they were in the studio in (BBC News') White City, (Sky News') Osterley or (ITN's) Gray's Inn Road."

Bell also said that there is a danger of journalists who have been "around for a while" being allowed to "file reports that are chiefly about themselves".

He added: "The roles of anchor and sub-anchor play to this weakness with devastating effect. Within the BBC's College of Journalism, there is scope for a School of Humility. Budget cuts may yet deliver it."

Last October, it emerged that the £100,000 spent by the BBC on covering the dramatic rescue of the trapped Chilean miners had resulted in other coverage being scaled back.

You May Like

Comments

Loading...