We have argued before that proposed BBC cuts can sometimes seem like negotiating positions.
In the past, plans to axe services such as 6 Music and the Red Button text service were dropped or substantially modified.
So is the proposal to merge the BBC News Channel and BBC World News also a negotiating position? Or is it the BBC’s final word?
It seems NUJ members at the BBC are becoming increasingly concerned.
Naturally there will be a worry over jobs. Staff are having to reapply for a reduced number of positions. Naturally there is a fear over redundancies.
It should be stressed that any compulsory redundancies would almost certainly lead to industrial action. The NUJ is in a very strong position at the BBC.
But this is not simply a concern for individuals or jobs.
Perhaps the bigger concern to the wider public is over just what the new channel will be like in practice. Far too little has been said.
We know it will simulcast the main BBC One news programmes and Nicky Campbell’s morning show on 5 Live. But what will happen the rest of the time?
World news is very important to an organisation like the BBC. But there is a difference between covering world news and making bulletins for an international audience.
Many major stories within the UK – the weather, train strikes, major court cases – are of limited international interest.
What will the running orders on the new channel be like? What will the split be like between UK and world news?
What about the current news channel’s commitment to stories from the nations and the English regions?
What will be the threshold for offering coverage of domestic breaking news?
Much more will need to be said and done to provide reassurances the UK licence payer will come first – not the commercial audience of BBC World.
But there are some other facts to contemplate.
First, of course, there is the pressure on the BBC’s income. If one service is spared the axe, more cuts will be needed elsewhere.
Secondly, the audience at any one time for the news channel is modest compared to the numbers who watch the main BBC One bulletins – even though the news channel beats Sky News by a significant margin.
Thirdly, online services are increasingly important. How many of us find out about breaking stories from BBC News alerts on our phones? Can you argue that the days of linear 24 hour news channels are numbered?
Still the debate on what happens to the news channel should be an important debate to the public. It goes to the heart of what the BBC is ultimately about.
Do you pay a licence fee for what, sadly, is now a failing soap opera – beaten decisively in the ratings by it’s much-loved ITV rivals?
Or do you pay for some of the best journalism going? Something that is more important now than ever in an era of fake news.
Or perhaps you feel the BBC still needs to offer as wide a range of services as possible – the only question is about whether a service is of high quality or as good as it could be?
But if you feel like that, then you also need to be prepared to debate what the level of the licence fee should be or contemplate potential alternatives.
Nothing would be worse than seeing the BBC become a marginalised, cash-strapped niche broadcaster. But without more money, are we now on that path?
PICTURED: BBC newsroom. COPYRIGHT: BBC.