The BBC is to increase its commitment to primetime foreign affairs programming as media secretary Tessa
The BBC is to increase its commitment to primetime foreign affairs programming as media secretary Tessa Jowell comes under pressure to force broadcasters to give added emphasis to the genre through the communications bill.Extra investment is to be released by the BBC over the next year to allow for eight new hour-long primetime specials on BBC 2, as well as eight co-commissions between BBC 2 and BBC 4, which will air first on the digital channel.BBC 2 strand Correspondent will continue in its Sunday evening slot, but will go out as short series spread across the year. At the same time, former Newsnight and Panorama deputy editor Karen O'Connor has been appointed as Correspondent editor, replacing Fiona Murch who has been promoted to senior executive producer for BBC 2 specials.BBC 2 controller Jane Root said: 'The BBC has an excellent track record in intelligent, thought-provoking foreign affairs journalism. This move will increase the funding of BBC foreign affairs and give it a spot in the heart of the BBC schedule, bringing a wider potential audience to great stories from across the globe.'The move coincides with calls from broadcasting pressure groups for Jowell to look again at including a stipulation in the communications bill to force broadcasters to commit to a certain amount of foreign affairs programming as part of their public service remit.Don Redding, co-ordinator of broadcasting pressure group 3WE, which comprises environment and development charities, said research carried out by the organisation had found the amount of factual international programming on the major terrestrial networks had fallen over the past decade by around 50 per cent. 'Broadcasters are not doing enough programming outside news and current affairs that covers the wider world in general and specifically developing countries,' he said.'We are seriously concerned that without any specific mention of international programming in the public service remit in the draft communications bill the trend will only get worse.'At a seminar organised by the Voice of the Listener & Viewer pressure group at the House of Commons last week, Jowell said she would be 'very happy to have further discussions' on the issue, but added she wanted to get away from the culture of 'box ticking'.