Helen Boaden’s “Return to Radio” email
Helen Boaden is taking up the new role of Director, BBC Radio from April. Here’s her email to staff saying goodbye, and hello.
Today Tony Hall has announced the shape of his new top team and as you will know, I am moving to become Director of Radio at Easter. I confess that it is a bitter sweet moment for me. Everyone knows that I love Radio and always have. I have championed our radio programmes in News and visited every one of our Local Radio stations across England. So naturally I genuinely relish returning to this cherished and uniquely creative part of the BBC, especially under a new DG who is passionate about its importance.
But leaving News and all of you is undoubtedly a wrench. I believe I may be the longest serving Head of News over the past 25 years. Certainly I have presided over the most radical change as we have gone multimedia, started full integration of Network News first with English Regions and then Global News, launched fresh services and programmes and moved into amazing buildings great and small – Salford and NBH; Cambridge and Delhi – all designed to foster collaboration and innovation. When the News Channel and the BBC One Bulletins move into NBH in mid-March, “One BBC News” will no longer be a pipe dream but an increasing reality.
All this proves that we are good at pulling off big, difficult change without making a fuss about it. We should celebrate that. But change is only important because we can use it to deliver even better journalism on all platforms for our audiences, the people we proudly serve every day. The people who trust us to get it right.
There are simply too many major stories and moments over the past eight years to list even a fraction of them but looking back I think of the Asian Tsunami, the banking crisis, the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Arab Uprising, the civil war in Syria, the Fukushima catastrophe, UK devolution, the BNP Question Time, the Leaders’ Debate, the Raoul Moat and Derrick Bird killings, Panorama on Winterbourne View, those extreme weather stories which all audiences love and the amazing coverage across England of the Olympic Torch relay.
And then there have been those huge historical shifts which reshape the world like the rise of China and India and the impact of the global economic crisis which will play out over many years at all levels of life. What an amazing time to be in charge of BBC News. I am hugely proud of all we have achieved together.
But I also remember some very dark times. Kate Peyton was murdered in Somalia within six months of my arrival, joining a tragic roll call of our journalists who have been killed on assignment. Other colleagues like Frank Gardner, Stuart Hughes and Mohammad Ballout have survived their injuries while the release of Alan Johnston who was kidnapped for 114 days in Gaza was genuinely one of the best days of my professional life. I learned very early in this job never to take for granted the bravery and determination of our teams in the field, be they in a foreign war zone or the English riots.
Indeed, I have tried hard never to take any of you for granted or the work that you do. That goes for our wonderful, creative and dedicated journalists of course, but also the people who support our journalism with vital skills and experience like the magnificent High Risk Team, the brilliant training staff of the College of Journalism, our committed managers, our highly skilled operational and craft teams as well as the vital Technology, HR, Finance and support colleagues on whom we depend.
BBC News in all its manifestations is a very special part of the BBC. I have learned so much from you all and I hope I have given you something of value in return. From Local Radio to the Language Services, from Newsbeat to Newsnight and the News App, from School Report to Media Action and BBC Monitoring – and everything in between in all its glorious diversity and journalistic richness – you are a great, great team. What’s more, as I discovered during the past gruelling five months, whilst you may look at life with certain scepticism, you’re also profoundly generous and supportive when times are really tough.
Moving forward, Fran will take over as Acting Director of News on 19th March, while I begin my new role as Director of Radio after Easter.
It has been a huge privilege and an absolute pleasure to lead you. Thank you for having me.