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BBC World News steps up

Rebranded channel moves to high-tech digs

LONDON

BBC World News, the pubcaster’s 24-hour global news web, has begun broadcasting from its new home — the hi-tech hub of New Broadcasting House.

The switch to new premises, in the heart of London’s West End shopping district, comes with an on-screen rebrand and a new schedule offering what the Beeb claims are higher quality production values, which it hopes will help boost distribution globally.

New Broadcasting House has been extensively refurbished at a cost of £1 billion ($1.6 billion) financed by a 30-year bond. BBC toppers say this did not add to the licence fee — the annual sum every home with a TV pays.

Fresh presenters for World News include Afghanistan-born Australian Yalda Hakim, fluent in five languages.

“She is very much part of the new face of BBC World News,” said Richard Porter, controller, English, BBC Global News.

But in an increasingly competitive environment as rivals like Al Jazeera English prepare to enter the U.S., where BBC World News struggles to find distribution, it is more prosaic factors like audience figures that will determine whether the channel’s performance matches the ambition of its new HQ.

“I always say that we aim to deliver the three Rs — reach, revenue and reputation, of which the most important is reputation,” said Jim Egan, COO at BBC Global News.

“There’s a gap for trusted, impartial news that is truly global in its reach,” Porter added.

He denied that the BBC’s reputation for non-partisan, accurate news took a hammering from the Jimmy Savile affair and related difficulties at flagship public affairs show “Newsnight.”

“I don’t want to diminish the impact of those problems in the U.K. but overseas it has not affected us. None of our advertisers or distributors contacted us to complain.”

As for the U. S., where BBC World News claims it is available in 25 million homes, Porter predicts more carriage deals are imminent following last year’s deal with Time Warner cable. “We are talking to direct-to-home operators in the U.S. and remain optimistic,” he said.

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