BBC Takes “Digital First” Approach, Moving CBBC, BBC Four, Radio 4 Extra To Online-Only

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26 May 22

BBC Takes “Digital First” Approach, Moving CBBC, BBC Four, Radio 4 Extra To Online-Only

As the BBC plans to cut budgets following the license fee freeze, the UK broadcaster has announced a number of changes coming in the next few years, including closing CBBC and BBC Four as linear channels.

In a speech to staff this afternoon to BBC staff, Director-General Tim Davie plans for changes to content and services, efficiency savings and a drive to seek new commercial investment, as the BBC manages the demands of the licence fee settlement and looks to the future.

This first phase represents £500m of annual savings and reinvestment to make the BBC digital-led. As part of this, £200m will contribute to the £285m annual funding gap by 2027/28, created by the licence fee settlement earlier this year. The remaining funding gap will be covered in the final three years of this Charter period, which is consistent with previous savings programmes.

Davie laid out that the cuts and restructuring would see the BBC reduce its staff by 1,000 employees over the next few years, and shift significant amounts of money into new programmes for iPlayer as they take a “digital-first” approach. This shift includes:

  • The creation of a single, 24-hour TV news channel serving UK and international audiences, called BBC News, offering greater amounts of shared content, but maintaining the ability to offer separate broadcasts depending on what’s happening at home and abroad;
  • Plans to stop broadcasting smaller linear channels, such as CBBC and BBC Four and Radio 4 Extra, after the next few years;
  • Plans to stop scheduling separate content for Radio 4 Long Wave, consulting with partners, including the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, ahead of the closure of the Long Wave platform itself;
  • Shifting a number of World Service languages to be digital-only;
  • An ambition to reach 75% of BBC viewers through iPlayer each week;
  • Reviewing commercial options for audio production;
  • New on-demand content and formats for news and current affairs;
  • Requesting Ofcom to remove regulatory restrictions on iPlayer to expand boxsets and archive content;
  • A bigger investment in programming from the nations and regions across the UK;
  • Investment in an enhanced news and current affairs offer for iPlayer and Sounds, with new video formats, simulcasts and podcasts;
  • Changes in local radio and regional news to ensure high-quality, distinctive BBC local journalism is available every day when and where audiences want it;
  • Plans to accelerate digital growth in audio and drive listeners to BBC Sounds, simplifying schedules and cancelling shows that do not deliver;
  • Further investment in data to ensure comprehensive, real-time data that supports growth of digital products and services.

“This is our moment to build a digital-first BBC,” said Davie. “Something genuinely new, a Reithian organisation for the digital age, a positive force for the UK and the world. “Independent, impartial, constantly innovating and serving all. A fresh, new, global digital media organisation which has never been seen before. Driven by the desire to make life and society better for our licence fee payers and customers in every corner of the UK and beyond. They want us to keep the BBC relevant and fight for something that in 2022 is more important than ever. To do that we need to evolve faster and embrace the huge shifts in the market around us. I believe in a public service BBC for all, properly funded, relevant for everyone, universally available, and growing in the on-demand age. This plan sets us on that journey.”

The BBC hasn’t set out an exact timeline yet, but we’ll be let you know as we hear more.