BBC news channel to go online only?

09/07/2015

The BBC is could take its £66.2m rolling news channel online only as part of a cost cutting drive, according to a news report.

The Guardian reports that work had already started on assessing the impact of making the news channel online only before the government unveiled a surprise licence fee settlement on Monday in which the BBC will have to shoulder the full £750m cost of free licence fees for people aged over 75 by 2020.

A paper has already been put together about the £66.2m news channel, looking into its future as well as how the BBC covers live news in future more broadly, according to sources. A final decision about the channel has yet to be made.

Rolling broadcast news is expensive. In the last BBC annual report, it said the channel’s production costs were £26.8m, while its newsgathering costs were £21.2m.

In addition, the news channel spent £48.7m on content, £8m on distribution and £9.5m on infrastructure/support in 2013/14 and taking it online only would prove cheaper for the BBC, which is looking to make savings.

In a recent speech, BBC director of news James Harding said the reach for news channels is falling as people turn to new technology such as social media for their news.

“The BBC News channel is the most-watched 24-hour news channel in the UK, reaching 8.6 million adults each week. But like TV news more widely, the channel’s reach has fallen over the last three years, as has Sky’s.

“What do these figures say to us? They tell us that just as the BBC redefined the news for Britain – first on radio, then on television and more recently online – we must now consider very carefully the prospect that we may need to do so again.”

“Technology, once again, is transforming the way the BBC tells stories, the way everyone gets stories. In particular, it is changing the way people get breaking news. There is a shift from rolling news channels on TV to streaming news on mobile … This represents an opportunity as exciting as the launch of 24-hour news in 1997 and will force the BBC to think how best we reach people.”

ITN scrapped its news channel in 2005 but the BBC has a different remit and viewers look to it at time of national events such as a royal death or other major news stories.

One suggestion that has been mooted is for a slimmed-down core team that could remain to cover major domestic stories for world news, but it is not clear how that would work.

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