BBC News has confirmed a package of changes to its services as it seeks to make millions of pounds in savings and shift resources online.
The package confirms a number of measures that were leaked to media outlets back in October, when the plans were originally expected to be announced.
- Newsnight will be downgraded to a 30-minute discussion and interview programme, but will continue to broadcast on weeknights on BBC Two.
- The BBC News at One will move to Salford in the new year, extending its broadcast time to one hour.
- Meanwhile, BBC Breakfast will be extended by 15 minutes – that’s less than the 45-minute extension to 10am that had once been mooted.
- Over on the BBC’s News Channel, current affairs documentary strand Our World is cancelled, leaving the BBC with more weekend airtime to be filled with something else.
- A number of reporter roles will close, although some new posts will be created in other parts of BBC News.
The BBC says it will reinvest some money into online services, such as live blogs and streaming via the iPlayer. In addition to helping the BBC save £500 million, BBC News says it is responding to a fall in linear audiences, which it says has fallen 11% in the last five years.
However, it’s known that news audiences actually rose in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, so the drop quoted may be exaggerated by events that took place in recent years.
Certainly, changes made to the BBC News Channel in the past two years, steadily reducing UK content in advance of this spring’s merger with BBC World News have driven audiences away. Back in May, Deadline reported how the BBC News Channel had lost 1 million viewers.
A fall in audiences can thus be used as an excuse to cut further. Online blogs are relatively cheap, compared to the running of a fully fledged news service.
And the UK opt-out of the news channel, streamed on the iPlayer is often a raw feed of an event, broadcast for hours on end without much editorial comment, analysis or interviews.
When BBC News carries Parliamentary coverage, the BBC News Channel is effectively simulcasting the same raw feed as BBC Parliament, but with different graphics.
That a shift online does not necessarily mean that viewers don’t want linear news is proved by the growth of streaming-only news channels. NBC News Now is among those US channels originally designed as an online-only service, although in the UK NBC News Now does also have conventional broadcast outlets.
The live nature of the news means viewers do want to dip in and out of news coverage, even with set times for headlines, but not necessarily on a normal TV screen anymore.
Other broadcasters have invested in a streaming-friendly news services that are also available where streamers are – across various platforms and apps including YouTube. European examples include Franceinfo.
The BBC prefers to ring-fence its streaming content on the iPlayer, which will limit the scope of its success. Ofcom has previously noted how the iPlayer actually isn’t that big in terms of its streaming rivals and how it fails to reach some audiences.
Incidentally, Ofcom is expected to give its verdict tomorrow on the BBC’s progress as part of its regulatory annual review of the public service broadcaster.
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