The BBC’s budget for foreign news is so stretched by covering the uprisings in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt that the corporation is having to cut back on coverage of less pressing events - including the Oscars and the Cannes Film Festival.
Fran Unsworth, the BBC’s head of newsgathering, has admitted that the “foreign coverage budget is under severe pressure. But we can’t just say that there’s not enough money to cover these [Arab] stories. The way round it is to take money from somewhere else.”
Instead of sending the usual team of six people to cover last week’s Oscars ceremony in Los Angeles, the BBC only sent one reporter from London, with the rest of its coverage being resourced from its local bureau. A BBC source said that coverage of other “diary” events, such as the EU summit later this month, is likely to be cut back. Speaking to the BBC’s in-house magazine, Ariel, Unsworth said that coverage of the New Zealand earthquake had been achieved on as tight a budget as possible. “We sent three people - two from Australia and one from Bangkok,” she said. “We thought hard about it, we took the view we had to send - but we didn’t send that many. So we can look at something and say, we need to cover this but how much force do we need?” Instead of sending a presenter to Libya, the BBC has been relying on its correspondent Ben Brown to present coverage for the BBC News channel and the main TV bulletins.