Tuesday, 29 Sep 2020

BBC News at Six and 10 shows 'could be AXED within 10 years'

BBC News at Six and 10 shows ‘could be AXED within 10 years’ as part of drive to win over younger viewers with ‘non linear’ iPlayer broadcasts, corporation executive says

  • Fran Unsworth has predicted news will move into the ‘digital space’ this decade
  • Head of news says output will be consumed via iPlayer on tablets and phones
  • BBC does not expect huge numbers of TV viewers to stick around after Covid
  • Corporation has announced it is axing 520 jobs in its news division to save £80m

The BBC’s News at Six and News at 10 bulletins could be axed within a decade as coverage moves online, the corporation’s head of news has said.

Fran Unsworth has predicted that news will be in ‘the digital space’ and the BBC’s output will be consumed via iPlayer on tablets and smartphones ‘for young people’. 

Although audiences for the main BBC1 bulletins at 6pm and 10pm have doubled during the coronavirus crisis, the broadcaster does not expect the large numbers of young people tuning in for the first time to stick around.

It comes as the BBC has announced that it is axing over 500 jobs in its news division in an £80million drive to save costs post-Covid.

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Ms Unsworth said: ‘I think TV journalism will still be around because of the power of pictures to tell a story, but it won’t necessarily be received in quite the forms it currently is. 

Fran Unsworth has predicted that news will be in ‘the digital space’ and the BBC’s output will be consumed via iPlayer on tablets and smartphones ‘for young people’

‘So I still think, ultimately in 10 years’ time, we probably won’t be consuming linear bulletins exactly. I mean, I might be wrong about that. I doubt it.

‘There might be one (bulletin) a day, or something. I think there’ll be fewer of them. But I think that the power of how you tell stories through television, pictures, video will just be in a different space. It’ll be in the digital space, it’ll be on, you know, iPlayer. It’ll be on your tablet, your iPhone.

‘We have to think creatively about what the product is, but that’s the direction of travel and I don’t think that’s changed.’ 

The BBC’s head of news said the 6pm programme has achieved ratings of eight million while the 10pm achieved audiences of six million.  

Ms Unsworth said that she does not expect the huge numbers of young people watching BBC News for the first time to stick around. 

‘They’re sitting down and watching a television bulletin in a way that I thought they weren’t ever really going to again,’ she told the newspaper. 

The BBC’s head of news said the 6pm programme achieved ratings of eight million while the 10pm achieved audiences of six million (pictured: Huw Edwards presenting the 10pm news)


Ms Unsworth said that she does not expect the huge numbers of young people watching BBC News for the first time to stick around (pictured: left, Sophie Raworth; right, George Alagiah)

‘So that has been what’s been really interesting about this. I’m not under any illusions, to be quite honest with you, because I’ve seen it in the past. 

‘You get these big peaks, the big stories like the Bataclan and London Bridge attacks, then the audience falls off again quite rapidly.

‘What I would hope is that we’ve changed our image in the mind of the younger viewer, which is that we are there to be relied on, and if they really do want to know what’s happening they will come to us to find out.

‘We’re not just any other news source.’

Ms Unsworth also said that the coronavirus crisis had demonstrated how staff can work from home, and suggested that there ‘might well’ be less BBC office space and fewer presenters flying overseas to cover big international stories.  

She added that the pandemic has helped to mend relations between the BBC and Downing Street – and led to fewer claims of bias.

Newsround’s afternoon bulletin gets the axe after 50 years: Ofcom clears BBC to shut slot down because growing numbers of young viewers watch it online

By Jack Wright for MailOnline 

The BBC will axe Newsround’s afternoon edition after almost 50 years after audiences for its bulletins on the small screen continued to fall in lockdown. 

The broadcaster wants to move more of its children’s content online in an attempt to halt declining TV viewing numbers among young people. 

Ofcom approved the BBC’s plans after the corporation told the TV watchdog it wanted to expand the range of content on the Newsround website – as its online audience rose by a quarter over the first three months of lockdown.  

The BBC had hoped to have the changes in place by this April, but all non-essential decision-making was paused by Ofcom at the start of lockdown.  

Ofcom’s approval means that the BBC can reduce the minimum amount of news it broadcasts on children’s channel CBBC from 85 hours to 35 hours per year. 

The decision also means that the BBC is free to slash the beloved after-school Newsround bulletin, a hallmark of the show which first aired on April 4, 1972. 

The BBC has been given the go-ahead to axe Newsround’s afternoon television slot as the coronavirus crisis ‘accelerates’ the decline in TV viewing

Despite children being off school during lockdown, Newsround viewers continued to fall in 2020, from 37,000 children aged six to 12 in 2019 to just 24,000 in April and May this year. 

By contrast, Newsround’s online audience is growing and its website enjoyed two of its highest weeks ever during the coronavirus lockdown.

As its online audience rose by around 25 per cent during the first three months of the crisis, Newsround’s average TV audience size among children aged six to 12 was 24,000 in April and May, compared to 37,000 in the same months last year.  

Newsround editor Paul Plunkett revealed that Newsround is also planning to hire its first full-time environmental journalist, to launch a new YouTube channel and aims to deliver ‘big journalistic moments’ that can be used across BBC News.

He said: ‘Whilst this feels like a big change, we know that the Newsround website already reaches many more children than the teatime bulletin.’

Opponents of the BBC’s changes have argued that Newsround’s TV bulletins are a ‘safe haven’ for children from the dangers of online fake news.  

Ofcom’s decision frees the BBC to slash the beloved after-school Newsround bulletin, a hallmark of the show which first aired on April 4, 1972 (pictured, anchor John Craven)

The BBC had hoped to have the changes in place by this April, but all non-essential decision-making was paused by Ofcom at the start of lockdown (pictured, Krishnan Guru-Murthy)

Media regulator Ofcom rejected these claims, insisting instead that ‘it is important for the BBC to be able to have the flexibility to experiment with where it delivers content in order to remain relevant to younger audiences, who are increasingly consuming less BBC content, particularly via linear TV’.

‘We support the aspiration behind the BBC’s proposals to shift its focus towards where its audience is moving,’ Ofcom said. 

A BBC spokesman said: ‘We’re delighted that Ofcom has approved these changes to our operating licence. This will allow us the flexibility to make more news for more children across more platforms ensuring the much-loved brand continues to thrive in the modern day.’

An Ofcom spokeswoman said: ‘We agree that it makes sense for the BBC to provide more children’s content online.

Viewing of Newsround bulletins on CBBC continued to fall in 2020, from 37,000 children aged six to 12 in 2019 to 24,000 in April and May this year (pictured, Helen Rollason)

‘Given significant shifts in children’s media habits, which have continued during the pandemic, this should help the BBC to engage better with its youngest audiences, who are critical to its future success.

‘But we’re also imposing important safeguards to ensure that the quality of content on the CBBC and CBeebies channels is maintained, and that the impact of the BBC’s changes are carefully monitored.’

Ofcom approved the BBC’s request to reduce the minimum amount of news it is required to broadcast on CBBC from 85 hours to 35 hours a year.

It said the ‘BBC needs to think about how it makes its online content easily discoverable’ online.

The TV watchdog also accepted the broadcaster’s request to reduce the first-run UK originations quota for children’s content on CBBC from 400 to 350 hours – to take account of the agreed 50-hour reduction in the number of hours of children’s linear news broadcast on CBBC.

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