NUJ fears speech radio’s move to BBC’s commercial wing is “creeping privatisation”
The BBC is moving selected factual, entertainment and drama audio content to BBC Studios, the broadcaster’s commercial arm from April 2024.
Paul Siegert, NUJ national broadcasting organiser, said:
“The NUJ notes with great concern that in April a huge chunk of BBC speech radio will be moved into BBC Studios, the commercial arm of the corporation, without any public consultation. This is a major change, and while most news programmes remain in-house, the danger is that other output with journalistic content will not be held to the same standards of quality and accountability as a public service broadcaster – and in particular the BBC. This policy appears to be motivated by the lack of funding of the BBC which has seen its revenue fall by almost a third in past decade. While the NUJ sees the sense in BBC content being sold on, it believes BBC Studios is becoming a Trojan horse for greater privatisation of the corporation.
“During consultation with the BBC we became concerned that some management decisions appeared to be about a shift away from protecting the BBC's public purposes in radio production. NUJ members who were motivated to join the BBC because they believe in the ethos of public service journalism are deeply concerned by BBC Studios' focus on producing output for non-BBC platforms. Members are concerned about the potential effect on the quality and public value of the output, and believe this creeping privatisation will not benefit licence fee payers.
“The decision making process also shows that yet again Ofcom, the so-called broadcasting watchdog, has done nothing to promote public consultation of changes to the BBC and allows it carry on unhindered, as with the plans to cut BBC local radio content by almost half for listeners in England.”
Programmes moving to the commercial arm include Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, In Our Time and The Life Scientific. The BBC has appointed Richard Knight from the Amazon-owned podcast network Wondery to be director of audio at BBC Studios.