EXCLUSIVE: The BBC is carrying out a review to establish whether it requires more news channel presenters as five senior female anchors remain in the dark about their future.
Deadline understands that BBC News management is assessing whether more on-screen talent is required to host its increased streaming output.
The BBC News channel relaunched in April, merging the UK broadcaster’s domestic and international news networks and boosting online content.
This included the launch of “single story streams” in which rolling news coverage is dedicated to one story on iPlayer or the BBC News website, such as Donald Trump’s indictment in New York.
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The resourcing review has been ongoing for a number of weeks and insiders are speculating that it could be a way for the BBC to reintegrate the female presenters who have been benched for five months.
Martine Croxall, Karin Giannone, Geeta Guru-Murthy, Kasia Madera, and Annita McVeigh have not featured on the BBC News channel since March amid a standoff over their future.
The news channel is having to draft in freelancers to plug presenting holes, while less experienced BBC journalists are acting up as anchors.
“The review is just a cover for finding a way out of the dispute and settling with the presenters,” said a source outside the affected group of anchors. “They’ll dress it up as requiring more presenter staffing and be able to bring back the people who’ve been off.”
The review will also take into account the departure of Yalda Hakim, who quit as one of BBC News’ five chief presenters last month to join Sky News. There has been speculation in recent weeks about the future of another chief presenter: Christian Fraser, who hosts The Context.
Four insiders said Fraser had concerns about how the merged BBC News channel is working and that he has been courted by other broadcasters, including Bloomberg. A source close to Fraser denied that he had spoken to rivals of the BBC.
Croxall, Giannone, Guru-Murthy, Madera, and McVeigh were not successful in landing one of the UK-based chief presenter roles on the channel. They were offered the opportunity to apply for eight correspondent/presenter posts, even though this represents a step down and a potential pay cut.
Some of the women are understood to have serious misgivings about the BBC’s recruitment process for the chief presenter roles and their concerns are currently being investigated by a manager from outside of the news division.
The Times of London reported Daryl Maitland, head of HR at BBC Studios, is leading the probe amid accusations that the BBC told successful applicants that they would get a chief presenter job before the recruitment process had concluded.
There has been sympathy for the female presenters’ cause internally. A source who does not work for the news channel described the situation as a “mess” that has damaged morale.
Another source said news channel employees are keen to see a resolution, arguing that the women should consider accepting one of the correspondent/presenter jobs because the dispute is “dragging us through the mud.”
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