The demand follows media secretary Tessa Jowell's acceptance of all the recommendations laid out in the government-commissioned review of the rolling news service, conducted by former Financial Times editor Richard Lambert and published this Thursday (5 December).
Unveiling the long-awaited report's findings, Jowell is set to describe the review as 'an excellent piece of research' and will impose two strict conditions on the BBC in an attempt to force the corporation to improve News 24.
Her first condition is that the BBC governors must publish their response to the report by the end of February. After that, they must make public a revised remit taking on board the recommendations for the service by the end of April.
The government will also reserve the right to impose a further condition to force the governors to report more fully on the range of News 24 services in the BBC Annual Report. If these conditions are met, the service will be greenlit and not revised again until the charter review process, which will kick off from 2004.
Lambert completed his research into News 24 in July this year. He has advised the government to draw up new performance and scrutiny measures, claiming the news channel does not represent value for money. The report questions its use of its spending allocation and audience share claims. News 24 costs £50m a year to run and last year pulled in a 0.1 per cent share. The report also suggests that News 24 should make more use of the BBC's newsgathering operations to make international news its niche.
Much criticism has been levelled at the news channel since it launched in 1997, with rival broadcasters, including BSkyB and ITV News, complaining about the BBC's use of licence-fee money to launch what they regard as a commercial channel. Its budget exceeds that of the Sky News and ITV News channels put together.
BBC head of television news Roger Mosey said: 'Sky never wanted us to launch News 24 in the first place and came close to saying that it should be the only news channel in the market. But we disagree and the report endorses the decision to launch the channel.'
He added: 'We welcome the report and think it is interesting and constructive. We accept that we have now got to a position where we are highly credible but we know we can get better.'
BBC governors were given a copy of the report in October and as part of its response the BBC has already set about shaking up its regional programming, forcing the news channel to make more use of regional political news editors and the BBC's bureaux across the UK. Regional newsrooms are also being given individual branding to differentiate them from each other.