BBC News to invest in podcasting as part of digital pivot

News division will expand digital output while cutting broadcast content

BBC News is planning to invest more resources into digital-first content like podcasts, the broadcasting corporation has announced, as part of its efforts to reduce costs. 

The corporation revealed its new reinvestment and savings plan for the operational business division on Wednesday this week, stating that it will be looking at allocating more resources for content directed at online audiences and reducing its output for TV and radio content in order to make £500 million in savings.

As a result, the BBC will be investing an extra £5 million in digital initiatives, putting together a dedicated team for commissioning premium analysis from worldwide experts and creating daily content including podcasts, with more roles opening up for people working in financial and political investigations as well as other specialist roles with OSINT (open source intelligence) and policy analysis expertise. The fact-checking BBC Verify department will also be expanded. 

Part of the reinvestment and savings plan will also involve the BBC’s flagship investigative news and current affairs programme Newsnight being cut down to 30 minutes instead of 50 minutes and reformatted into a debate and discussion show. The BBC has also cut the programme’s 57 staff members by more than half, now down to 23, as the program is judged to no longer need a dedicated reporting team. 

BBC News and Current Affairs CEO Deborah Turness justified the company’s decision, stating that it is adapting to its audience’s changing news consumption habits and that the programme is still continuing to run five times a week despite financial challenges. According to the statement, the BBC’s TV audiences have declined by 11% over the past five years. 

Additionally, the BBC is under financial pressure due to the flat Licence Fee settlement, which was introduced in 2022 and doesn’t allow the broadcasting corporation to increase its TV licence fee despite the impact of inflation.

“Like many businesses, we are in a tough financial climate and as our audiences shift rapidly from TV to online news consumption, we need to make choices about where we allocate our resources,” said Turness. “While TV and radio remain crucial to BBC News, we must invest in our digital platforms to ensure they are also the home of our very best journalism, and today’s package of measures will accelerate this transformation.”

BBC News Podcasts executive producer Jonathan Aspinwall previously told the Press Gazette in an interview that the company plans to continue investing in its podcast strategy as its hit current affairs podcast Newscast will be central to the broadcaster’s general election coverage. PodPod has reached out to the BBC to find out how much of its new reinvestment and savings plan will be put into podcasting output. 

Newscast, hosted by veteran journalist Adam Fleming and BBC Political Editor Chris Mason, was the top podcast on BBC Sounds last quarter amongst all plays on the platform. The podcast recently started releasing episodes every day of the week with the addition of weekend hosts, Laura Kuenssberg and Paddy O'Connell.