BBC axes Kamal Ahmed from £205k editorial director role – after £100m pledge on increasing diversity

The BBC has axed editorial director Kamal Ahmed and two others from its news board in a ‘modernisation’ plan – leaving it with no ethnic minority members despite a pledge to increase senior management diversity last year.

An £80 million savings plan saw the job cuts announced by the broadcaster this afternoon.

It said it was ‘restructuring’ the board as part of ‘plans to modernise BBC News’.

The slimmed-down board will remain headed by director of news and current affairs Fran Unsworth, who is on £340,000-a-year.

Former newspaper man Ahmed’s role was created by Unsworth in 2018 and she said she was ‘thrilled he was joining her top team’. 

Two other members of the board, Gavin Allen and Jo Carr, have also lost their jobs after the restructuring.  

In 2019, the corporation said all senior leadership groups should have at least two staff members from minority ethnic backgrounds.

Ahmed’s departure will mean it no longer fulfils that criteria. 

Ahmed had a role as editorial director and oversaw Question Time for his £205,000 salary

Ahmed had a role as editorial director and oversaw Question Time for his £205,000 salary

Ahmed had a role as editorial director and oversaw Question Time for his £205,000 salary

The BBC said it was 'restructuring' the board as part of 'plans to modernise BBC News'

The BBC said it was 'restructuring' the board as part of 'plans to modernise BBC News'

The BBC said it was ‘restructuring’ the board as part of ‘plans to modernise BBC News’

Reacting to the change, one BBC source told the Telegraph: ‘And just like that our news board is all-white again. Not the direction I and many others hoped we would be going in.’ 

Tufayel Ahmed, a journalist and lecturer, said: ‘Not even two years ago the BBC made a big fuss about being more inclusive and ‘stepping up’ by having BAME representation in every leadership team, and now it seems to be back-pedalling on its own promises.

‘The BBC’s decision to cut its only BAME news board member is particularly worrying because BAME people are being disproportionately affected by job cuts during the pandemic for no discernible reason. 

‘BAME journalists are already so woefully underrepresented in our newsrooms, especially at senior levels.’

From broadsheet to broadcast: The rise of Kamal Ahmed 

Kamal Ahmed is a former newspaper man who started his career in Scotland and during the nineties.

He moved to the Guardian and was appointed executive news editor at the Observer.

Ahmed briefly left journalism to become the Director of Communications at the Equality and Human Rights Commission but returned to reporting as business editor of the Sunday Telegraph in 2009.

He replaced Robert Peston as the business editor of BBC News in March 2014 and the next year took his role as economics editor.

Four years later he was announced as BBC News’s Editorial Director in a position created by Fran Unsworth on the News Board. 

Ahmed previously hit the headlines last February when he apologised for accepting a £12,000 payment for speaking at a banker’s conference.

He received £12,000 for a 40-minute appearance at the Aberdeen Standard Investment’s conference, just days after telling 450 of his colleagues that their jobs were being cut.

He came under fire both publicly and within the BBC for his £12,000 fee for the event and has sent an email to colleagues apologising. 

Advertisement

However, a BBC spokeswoman said: ‘The final membership of the BBC News Board has not been announced. Two out the eight posts – a quarter – are currently vacant.’

In June last year the BBC said it would increase diversity by investing £100million over three years. 

The move, which starts in April 2021 is targeting 20% of off-screen talent coming from under-represented groups.

Within that includes people with a disability or from a BAME or ‘disadvantaged socio-economic’ background.

It had already pledged to increase the proportion of leadership roles filled by women from 44% to 50% by next year, and raise the share of such senior roles held by BAME staff from 11.5% to 15%.

Tim Davie, the director-general, said on taking the job that diversity was ‘mission critical’ to the BBC. 

Ahmed, whose mother is from Rotherham and whose father is from Sudan, had a role as editorial director which included overseeing Question Time and was paid around £205,000. He joined the BBC in 2014.

He found himself challenged in February last year when Victoria Derbyshire told him to ‘reconsider the decision to close our programme’.

It came after he had shared a post about a probe by Newsnight that had resulted in the Government announcing measures to ban putting children under the age of 16 in unregulated accommodation.

Ahmed wrote: ‘Investigations matter. Original journalism matters.’

Derbyshire made her feelings known about her programme’s cancellation, and has condemned the BBC’s claims that it pulled the show off air because it had failed to grow its live audience.

As well as Ahmed, Gavin Allen’s £180,000 role as head of news output, overseeing the likes of Radio 4’s Today programme, News at Six and Ten and the now-axed Victoria Derbyshire show, will also be closed.

The post of Joanna Carr, who as head of BBC current affairs looked after Panorama and Newsnight and is paid around £165,000, will also go.

In a note to staff, Unsworth said she would ‘like to thank them for their outstanding contribution to BBC News to date and we are exploring future options for them’.

Gavin Allen's £180,000 role as head of news output has also been closed as part of the cuts

Gavin Allen's £180,000 role as head of news output has also been closed as part of the cuts

Gavin Allen’s £180,000 role as head of news output has also been closed as part of the cuts

Unsworth said the new board will help in ‘increasing the impact of our world-class journalism, addressing changes in the way audiences consume news, achieving our savings target, and building a diverse culture inclusive of all.’

Who is on the BBC News Board?

Francesca Unsworth, director, News and Current Affairs  

Jamie Angus, Director, World Service Group 

Alan Dickson, Chief Financial and Operating Officer

Anna Gronmark, HR Director

Katie Lloyd, Development Director

Kate McAndrew, Chief of Staff

Jonathan Munro, Head of Newsgathering

Naja Nielsen, Digital Director

Sarah Ward-Lilley, Managing Editor

Advertisement

It comes after the BBC announced cuts to Newsnight, 5Live and other news output as part of cost-cutting plans and an effort to reach the young.

The plans to ‘modernise its newsroom’ will lead to around 450 job cuts and includes a review of the number of BBC presenters ‘and how they work’.

The board will be whittled down from 11 to eight, as there will be three new roles.

Jamie Angus, currently director of the World Service Group, will become senior controller, news output and commissioning.

Jonathan Munro, who is head of newsgathering, will become senior controller, news content and deputy director of news, ‘responsible for the production of the journalism that supports the BBC’s news programmes and platforms.’

The changes to the board will come into effect in March.

Ahmed previously hit the headlines last February when he apologised for accepting a £12,000 payment for speaking at a banker’s conference.

He received £12,000 for a 40-minute appearance at the Aberdeen Standard Investment’s conference, just days after telling 450 of his colleagues that their jobs were being cut.

He came under fire both publicly and within the BBC for his £12,000 fee for the event and has sent an email to colleagues apologising. 

In the email, he wrote: ‘I realise now that I did not think things through sufficiently at the time of the booking and, although I did not break any of the BBC’s guidelines on external speaking, it was a mistake to agree to a fee.

BBC executives Gavin Allen (left), Naja Nielsen (second from left), Jonathan Munro (second from right) and Kamal Ahmed (right) sat in front of staff on barstools at New Broadcasting House as they cut 450 jobs last year

BBC executives Gavin Allen (left), Naja Nielsen (second from left), Jonathan Munro (second from right) and Kamal Ahmed (right) sat in front of staff on barstools at New Broadcasting House as they cut 450 jobs last year

BBC executives Gavin Allen (left), Naja Nielsen (second from left), Jonathan Munro (second from right) and Kamal Ahmed (right) sat in front of staff on barstools at New Broadcasting House as they cut 450 jobs last year

‘I have told ASI this morning that I will not be taking any payment. I wanted to say sorry that a mistake made by me has become a public and internal issue.’

Days before, Ahmed was one of four senior BBC bosses who sat on bar stools as they announced the job cuts. 

He drew criticism after he turned up for the ‘bloodbath’ announcement wearing a black T-shirt and casual trousers.

This was reportedly out of character for the man who as political editor of the Observer was regarded as the faithful Fleet Street mouthpiece of Tony Blair’s spin doctor Alastair Campbell.

BBC broadcaster Victoria Fritz tweeted: ‘Got to be the first time I’ve not seen Kamal in a sharp suit and tie. At least he wore black.’

link

(Visited 9 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply