BBC News shows have been slowly relocating to their new billion pound home in the heart of London since last year. This month sees the move of BBC World News from west London to New Broadcasting House, behind the All Souls church at the north end of Regents Street.
The 11 floor building which has been designed to foster greater collaboration between the 6,000 plus staff members who will be based there is impressive, albeit arriving at a time of significant controversy for the BBC newsroom. The Jimmy Savile scandal stole much of the newsroom’s thunder late last year and somewhat ironically exposed much internal division within the unit.
Mary Hockaday, the head of the BBC newsroom, and responsible for much of the coordination for the move said that the BBC’s new home provided the team with an opportunity to rethink how best to work as a news organisation.
“The World Service leaving Bush House was a big moment, but already everyone in this building is beginning to realise and relish the potential of being together” … Mary Hockaday, in an interview with Broadcast Now
The building itself is indeed impressive with an 8-story high atria towering over a large open-plan space. Judging by some of the reader comments on related blog posts, the public is not as impressed and are ever-ready to remind the BBC that delivery of the premises ran over four years late and is currently £55m over budget. Over-budget or not, the likes of B24 News and online casino newspaper, Online Casino Independent certainly had nothing but positive things to say about the new BBC home.
Regardless of the heaps of negative commentary which any public broadcaster is bound to get (no matter what they do!), I believe the move for BBC is a much-needed one. Gone are the days when journalists hang on to their stories in the hope of claiming full single-handed glory. As the technology convergence continues on its path, the need for collaboration is stronger. News production processes will increasingly involve citizen journalism and distributed reporting. Without effective internal communication, newsrooms increase the risk of things slipping through the cracks or worse, getting things wrong.
Unifying services under one roof is by no means a guarantee that everything will be well-coordinated going forward. A lot depends on the processes that will be put in place to facilitate this. The technology platform of the new building will provide much easier access to news assets, and make presentation of these assets easier to incorporate into the programming. The logical combination of the television and the digital graphics teams in the same vicinity will also hopefully facilitate more effective use of data journalism and graphics in the newsroom.
In the end, the physical unification will be of as much value to the news organisation in so far as it is able to successfully create a consistent and complete view of its audience. With the effort and success of the migration to the new digital platform for the Olympics in 2012, I would say the BBC is leaping ahead in the right direction at the moment.