EXCLUSIVE: The BBC has told 10 of its most seasoned news anchors that they have lost their prestige presenting roles on the broadcaster’s rolling news channel.
Deadline can reveal that journalists including Jane Hill, Martine Croxall, and Ben Brown were informed yesterday that they will not be among the chief presenters on a relaunched BBC News channel.
The BBC is combining its international and domestic news channels into a single offering as the corporation bids to cut costs and reinvent its output for a digital age.
The merger has been rumbling on for months, but in a single day 10 presenters were effectively told that their services are not required when the merged channel launches around April. Jess Brammar, editor of the news channels, phoned around presenters to deliver the news.
Annita McVeigh, Geeta Guru-Murthy, and Shaun Ley are also among the unlucky presenters. Along with Croxall and Brown, they spend the majority of their time fronting the UK channel.
A number of presenters are expected to leave the BBC altogether. Some could apply for other on-screen roles on the merged channel — eight posts are being opened up for correspondents with studio presenting duties — though this may involve taking a pay cut. Other presenters may be found work on alternative news shows, such as BBC1 bulletins.
Five journalists were successful in landing a chief presenter role, in which they could earn as much as £230,000 ($284,000). They include Matthew Amroliwala, Yalda Hakim, Christian Fraser, Lucy Hockings, and Maryam Moshiri.
Sources said the majority of the jobs had gone to BBC World News anchors rather than UK presenters, with one person describing it as a “de facto closure” of the UK channel. “The new service will be a version of World News by any other name,” a second person said.
A third insider added: “We were told the new channel would be global facing, but what we didn’t think that would amount to what looks like a clear out, a rout of domestic news channel presenters. There are definitely questions here about what this means for the domestic license fee paying audience.”
Presenters were already aggrieved at the “humiliating” recruitment process, during which they had to take screen tests in a small studio with a manual autocue. This was despite many having decades of live presenting experience.
A source close to the process said it was fair and competitive, and that World presenters would be familiar to UK audiences. Fraser, for example, fronts The Context, which broadcasts in the UK. Amroliwala will also be familiar to British audiences having anchored election and other political coverage.
Deborah Turness, CEO of BBC News, said: “This team’s editorial leadership, talent, knowledge and flair make them the ideal presenters to bring the BBC’s trusted journalism to people at home in the UK and around the globe, and to guide audiences through the big stories as they break.”
There has been an exodus of journalism talent from the BBC in the past two years. Just last month, Deadline revealed that seasoned anchors David Eades, Joanna Gosling, and Tim Willcox had taken voluntary redundancy ahead of the news channel changes.
Tim Davie, the BBC director-general, said last month that the corporation needs fewer news presenters. “It’s obviously sad when people decide to take VR [voluntary redundancy] and leave, but you need less [sic] presenters and I think that is appropriate,” he said. “Sorry to be blunt.”
The BBC first suggested the channel merger last May as part of measures aimed at plugging a £1.4B hole in its finances after the license fee was frozen. The channel will carry more international news, but will split up for big UK news, so that domestic audiences will receive bespoke output. It will be anchored from London during UK daytime and evening, and from Washington D.C. and Singapore overnight.
BBC News Channel Presenter Line-Up
Out (confirmed so far)