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

The BBC has axed editorial director Kamal Ahmed and four other posts from its news board in a ‘modernisation’ plan – despite pledging to increase 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’. 

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

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 fulfills that criteria. 

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

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’

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. 

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%.

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.

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

Who is on the BBC News Board?

Francesca Unsworth, director, News and Current Affairs

Kamal Ahmed, Editorial Director

Gavin Allen, Head of News Output

Jamie Angus, Director, World Service Group

Joanna Carr, Head of Current Affairs

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


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’.

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.’

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.

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