BBC halts 450 job losses to help its crisis coverage

BBC News has suspended plans to cut 450 jobs amid the demands of covering the coronavirus pandemic. The job losses were announced in January

as part of an £80 million cost-cutting plan. Programmes that were due to be hit included BBC Two’s Newsnight, and BBC Radio 5 Live. The job cut delay came

shortly after the BBC said it was postponing the end of the free TV licence scheme for all over-75s because it was important that everyone should be able to access news during the health crisis. Lord Tony Hall, director

general, told staff: “We haven’t got the resource to plough ahead with those plans at the moment, so we’ll come back to that at some point. But for the moment we just want to make sure you are supported, and you’ve got the resources to do

the job that you and your colleagues are doing amazingly.” Some programmes, such as Politics Live and

Victoria Derbyshire, have been taken off air to prioritise coronavirus coverage, and several radio networks are sharing news bulletins. The BBC is operating a core news service during the pandemic. Question Time is on at the earlier time of 8pm on Thursdays and, like Radio 4’s Any Questions, is broadcast without a live studio audience and guests sit apart from each other in line with the social distancing guidelines. Fran Unsworth, BBC director of

news, told staff: “Like many organisations we are unable to

have all our staff on site due to the coronavirus outbreak. We are therefore making some changes to what we do to streamline our output to ensure we can work with fewer people and protect the staff who are at work.”

Egypt expels reporter over corona research

EGYPTIAN authorities forced a Guardian journalist to leave the country after she reported on a scientific study that said Egypt was likely to have many more coronavirus

cases than have been officially confirmed. Ruth Michaelson, who has

reported from Egypt since 2014, was advised that security services wanted her

to leave immediately after her press accreditation was revoked. On March 15, she reported

on research by infectious disease specialists from the

University of Toronto as well as public health data and news stories that pointed to Egypt having a higher rate of coronavirus cases than the government’s estimate.

Claim that free press may have helped halt pandemic

REPORTERS Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontieres) has said that the coronavirus pandemic might have been avoided and thousands of lives saved if China had a free press. The organisation has used evidence from

a variety of studies and reviewed events in the early days of the outbreak in Wuhan province during December and January to make its case. China ranks 177 out of 180 on RSF’s World

Press Freedom Index. The ruling Communist Party controls and censors news media in the country.

theJournalist | 05

For the moment we just want to make sure you are supported, and you’ve got the resources to do the job

Lord Tony Hall

coronavirus inbrief...

ASSANGE BAIL REQUEST REFUSED Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was refused bail after applying because he said he was vulnerable to a coronavirus outbreak in jail. He is being held in Belmarsh prison ahead of an extradition hearing. District Judge Vanessa Baraitser said: “As matters stand today, this global pandemic does not of itself yet provide grounds for Mr Assange’s release.”

DEPP CASE AGAINST SUN POSTPONED Johnny Depp’s libel claim against The Sun over allegations that he was violent and abusive towards his ex-wife, Amber Heard, has been postponed due to the coronavirus crisis. Depp is suing the tabloid’s publisher, News Group Newspapers, and its executive editor Dan Wootton over an article in April 2018 that made the allegations.

LEAP IN VIEWERS FOR TELEVISION NEWS TV news channels are seeing a big jump in audiences because of coronavirus coverage. In mid-March the BBC News Channel recorded its biggest weekly audience since 2015 - a 70 per cent increase on normal viewing. Channel 4 News said its audience had nearly doubled in 10 days.

Dialling into the Old Bailey

Journalists have been able to phone into Old Bailey hearings for the first time. Most court hearings are being held remotely, by phone and video conference. The Old Bailey made the decision following an

application from journalists at the BBC, the Press Association and Evening Standard. New jury trials have been halted, with

partially heard cases continuing under new social distancing measures.



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