ABC, BBC ink news deal

ABC News and BBC News have formed a partnership to exchange and gather news on a worldwide scale, including provisions for planning coverage at major events and perhaps sharing bureaus.

The deal replaces a 40-year working relationship between the BBC and NBC. No money is involved in the transaction.

Under the agreement, the two sides will exchange radio and television news coverage, jointly plan for the coverage of big news events, share correspondents and production crews, share technical and broadcast facilities and collaborate on public affairs programming.

Moreover, the two companies said they will examine other editorial issues, including the potential for the sharing of news bureaus around the globe.

The new relationship should provide some cost efficiencies for the two sides, although ABC said there would be no layoffs as a result of the arrangement. The BBC does not expect any staffing changes resulting from the agreement. Deal is effective immediately.

It is conceivable that BBC talent could appear over ABC’s airwaves and vice versa.

ABC’s deal with the BBC is another step in an ongoing realignment of international newsgathering partnerships. Together, the BBC and ABC represent one of the largest newsgathering operations in the world. Each of the big three webs has deals with international partners. In addition to the BBC, ABC owns a majority interest in Worldwide Television News and International Television News and has an exchange agreement with Japanese TV network NHK.

The BBC reportedly had been looking for a partner other than NBC. ABC News president Roone Arledge was the architect of the new deal, although he credited BBC’s Chris Cramer and ABC’s Dick Wald in his announcement.

ABC’s agreement with the BBC will not affect its other newsgathering deals. However, editorial ventures created between ABC and BBC will stay in-house, as will use of each other’s correspondents.

An NBC News spokeswoman said NBC and the BBC have an existing contract that provides for the exchange of news footage. That deal will remain in place.

Linking with ABC News gives the BBC’s World Service another gun in its growing arsenal. The BBC’s news operation is one of the few that is actually in an expansion mode and is trying to meet CNN Intl. head on. CNNI and the BBC are fighting a turf war around the world and both have targeted Asia as the next battleground.

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