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BBC News Online is to lose one of its most experienced journalism executives, when Pete Clifton is made redundant next month.
His redundancy is part of a larger 25% cut in the budget for BBC Online, which will see about 360 staff lose their jobs.
Clifton, who is head of editorial development for multimedia journalism, has spent 15 years at the BBC and been the most public face for innovation and technologically informed reporting as the news website became a household name.
His departure was announced to the BBC’s journalism department on Tuesday, acknowledging he had played “a pivotal role in taking BBC News into the digital age”.
“In the past four years he has played a central role in developing the BBC’s journalism offers for the digital age at UK, global and local levels gluing the multi-platform dimensions,” wrote deputy director general Mark Byford.
“He led the major redesigns and refreshes of the BBC News and BBC Sport websites; launched Democracy Live; launched the new BBC News app and led the work on the journalism portal. He also led the brilliant, creative interactive offer for the general election.
“Moreover, I know I speak for all his colleagues when I say how much I’ve admired Pete’s passion, skill, integrity, humour (most of the time!), creativity and decency.”
Clifton’s position had been under threat since Byford’s redundancy was announced in October last year. Clifton is part of the journalism group, headed by Byford, that is also being disbanded.
“This is a complete disaster for BBC News Online and very damaging, especially in the context of an industry that is scrambling to find people who can get their heads around this stuff,” said one BBC source. “What happens next? There are inherent problems in News Online and Clifton was a forward thinker who could get things done. Pete always delivered and because of that he commanded respect.”
The source added that the BBC needed more senior staff who could stand up to outside pressures and be less focused on TV. “That’s not the future of the BBC – it’s just part of it. Everybody in the BBC looks inwards, yet audiences online are often higher than for TV. If you’re not putting resources where the audience is, you’re undermining the licence fee by not fulfilling demand.”
Clifton, along with Peter Horrocks, now at the BBC World Service, and Nic Newman, also made redundant, were three popular and well-informed figures in News Online.
Clifton had been expected to roll out an important metadata project for News Online, as well as devising a strategy for scaling back the BBC’s local news activity online. With other senior News Online staff facing redundancy, it is not clear who will take over his strategic responsibilities.
After stints at Ceefax, Exchange Telegraph, the Press Association and Teletext, Clifton joined the BBC in 1996 and became UK editor of its news website. He helped establish BBC Sport online in 2000 which he also edited, and was made head of BBC News Interactive in 2005. He has been in his current role since 2008.
This article originally appeared in MediaGuardian.