Interview: BBC World’s Head of News

By Brian 

Justin Webb (right) xis replacing Katty Kay as the Washington, D.C. anchor for BBC World News while Kay is on maternity leave, the network announced earlier this month.

In an interview with TVNewser contributor Arch, BBC World Head of News Richard Porter said Webb is “a highly experienced correspondent and presenter who we know will be able to maintain the high standards we expect for the programme we produce out of Washington.”

Webb is a senior correspondent for the BBC in the U.S. He was previously an anchor of the BBC’s domestic breakfast program.

After the jump, Porter discusses what makes the BBC “distinctive…”

Will there be any cosmetic or editorial changes to the Washington-based newscasts?

There are no significant changes planned to the programme, although we are always looking for continuous improvement in its standards of journalism and production. The programme attracts a large and influential audience, and one of our specific aims is to ensure there are high-quality live interviews with guests in Washington.

But the BBC has more than 40 bureaux around the world, and we’d also hope to be able to offer a range and depth of stories that makes us really distinctive in the market. For example, we have permanent staffing in both Baghdad and Tehran, and we frequently carry reports from the bureaux there. We also have correspondents based all around Africa, and have been at the forefront of reporting from Darfur and Niger this year.

While viewers respect BBC World’s journalism, some find the pace of the newscasts a bit slow. What can you do to change that?

Is the pace of our bulletins a bit slow? It’s certainly true that we want our journalism to stand out, and if this means we have to take some time to tell the story, that’s one of the consequences. But I also want as many people to watch us as possible, so we have to find ways of producing coverage which is engaging and accessible.

So are we slow? Well maybe we devote more time to stories than some viewers in the US are used to. Are we boring? I don’t think we are – butb it’s up to the viewers to judge. Here’s what one writer – David Bianculli of the NY Daily News – said earlier this month: “BBC World News is the best model out there for serious coverage in a tight TV format.” Hope I’m not sounding complacent, because obviously we have to listen to feedback, but we’re trying to find the right balance here between “selling” the programmes and ensuring the journalism is what we’re remembered for.