The BBC’s plan to merge its two 24-hour news channels could suffer a setback this week when staff publish a damning report claiming the move will have a negative effect on news coverage on radio, television and online from the BBC.
The company is also preparing for regulator Ofcom to make a key announcement on the proposal, while some charities have already raised concerns.
In May, it was revealed that the BBC wanted to combine the BBC News channel and its commercial global service, BBC World News, in a £500million cost-cutting and redistribution mission announced by the director. general, Tim Davie, to create a “digital first” organization. It is seeking to achieve cuts of £285million a year made necessary by the government’s freeze on license fees for two years.
The new channel will broadcast news of interest to international and UK audiences, with adverts shown overseas only and a UK ‘opt out’ feed to cover major national stories, using journalists and a news team from Last Hour, which will simultaneously broadcast BBC Breakfast, BBC One bulletins and a TV version of the show from Radio 5 live presenter Nicky Campbell.
However, some staff say the proposal to merge the £57m News channel next April will come as a surprise to royalty payers who expect their money to be used to deliver national news and drive people to rivals including GB News and Rupert Murdoch’s talkTV. Around 79% of UK adults watch TV news, according to Ofcom, but the BBC says young people are increasingly accessing stories via social media platforms such as TikTok.
They also argue that UK viewers will see fewer regional stories at a time when local newspapers are in decline, and that merging the channels could blur the cards between the BBC’s public service and commercial activities – concerns shared by certain politicians and that the culture selection committee will question. Dave next month.
Ofcom is due to make a statement this week on the proposed changes, which could delay plans. Under the regulator’s rules, if the company makes “a material change” it must carry out a “public interest test” and then obtain Ofcom’s approval. The BBC must also ‘consider the effect’ on competition to ensure that its commercial activities do not distort the market.
Sources say Ofcom is sympathetic to the BBC’s financial situation, but some within the regulator want the company to be more open about how the proposals will work in practice, as they believe they could significantly alter chain.
Staff, who are facing 70 layoffs, also want more detail rather than the ‘engagement workshops’, ‘tailor-made wellness sessions’ and ”in-the-moment’ phone advice” they have been given. offered in an internal BBC email this week.
In addition, charities have raised concerns with BBC management. BBC News acting director Jonathan Munro responded in a letter seen by the Guardian that he understood “there are concerns…but…these proposals represent the best value for the royalty payer as we invest in the most effective ways to reach all audiences and build our resilience for years to come.”
However, a report by BBC News staff claims that with many other programs and channels relying on the BBC News channel for content, it could cost the company more to replace the footage needed than the amount it she would save by closing it.
They estimate that in addition to the News channel’s 8-10 million linear viewers, its content is heard, seen or read online by more than 25-35 million people per week – more if the images are used by radio. local, regional TV and iPlayer is counted.
Also, as a BBC News insider explained, ‘the news channel’s content is invaluable’ to BBC One’s 1pm, 6pm and 10pm bulletins, which at times ‘wouldn’t be broadcast without the content provided. by channel”, while BBC Online uses the news channel. content “from the masses on British stories”, but is often uncredited. Additionally, all of the main BBC radio news programs use extracts from news channels.
Ofcom would not comment on their plans, but a spokesman said it expected “the BBC to provide a wide range of local, regional, national and UK news, as well as a international coverage”.
A BBC spokesperson said the staff report was “anecdotal, contains no data analysis and is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of how BBC News operates and plans for the new channel. Operating one 24-hour channel, rather than two parallel channels, allows us to invest more in our ability to cover breaking news across the BBC.
They added: ‘We remain totally committed to covering UK stories and a 24-hour news channel that meets the needs of UK and international audiences even better than we do now.’