Tuesday, July 04, 2006

BBC Monitoring loses a prized asset

The following submission was received by Pro-Veritas from a verified email account used by BBC Monitoring staff.

Staff at BBC Monitoring bade farewell on Monday 3 July to one of their highly prized assets, the Media Services team, which has been abolished as part of a downsizing of BBC Monitoring initiated by Director Christopher Westcott.

The move was announced by Mr Westcott at a staff briefing, a copy of which had been posted on the Intranet.

“From today Media Services will begin its integration into the new Supra-Geographic Group,” Mr Westcott proclaimed, adding that Ray Cooke, who had decided to take voluntary redundancy, “has now handed responsibility for the Media Services team over to Steve Watcham”.

Steve Watcham was promoted in May this year to head the newly-created Supra-Geographic Group, which consists of the rumps of three former departments: News and Multimedia, Research and Media Services. During the local elections that took place in the same month he stood for the Conservative Party in the Norcot Ward of Reading and came second to the ruling Labour Party’s candidate.

The Media Services team consisted of editors and technicians specialising in the politics and technical infrastructure of the media industry, and copyright experts. Whilst some of them will be subsumed into the amorphous new group and will be expected to contribute to other work unrelated to their areas of expertise, others will be forced to take redundancy.

According to Mr Westcott, the blending of the Media Services department into the Supra-Geographic Group will not compromise BBC Monitoring’s media expertise. In his briefing document, he said: “In our mission to ‘observe, understand and explain’ we will need, more than ever, to ensure our media expertise is nurtured and grown.”

However, one former manager fears that the exact opposite will happen, in that the “takeover” of Media Services will dilute the skills of some media experts and drive others to seek employment elsewhere.

Speaking strictly on condition of anonymity, the ex-manager said: “There are people in Media Services who have great skills and a fantastic knowledge of the media industry - knowledge which they have accumulated over many years. I have always thought of Media Services as the throbbing heart and the bone marrow of BBC Monitoring which provide the framework of the entire operation. Their expertise rivals that of any other media specialists in the country. I am pretty sure they would have no problem finding better jobs elsewhere, within or without the BBC. Their loss would be an absolute tragedy, a coup de grace, for BBC Monitoring. Without these media specialists the organisation will start drifting, like a boat whose navigator has been thrown overboard in order to make room for cheap labour.”

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