Saturday, March 4, 2023


On Monday 3rd April 2023, the BBC will launch “BBC News”, a new 24-hour TV news channel replacing both BBC World News and the domestic BBC News Channel, known on-screen as simply “BBC News”, which launched as BBC News 24 in September 1997. With both channels merged into one service a month ahead of the relaunch, the final UK-only hour of the BBC News Channel was broadcast from 5pm on Friday 3rd March, which I watched on my phone while on the way home from work... and there lies the problem.


There was a time when I had BBC News 24 constantly on in the background at home, turning my room into a hotel foyer. It was my major source of the latest news, along with the BBC’s teletext service Ceefax (which I talked about here). But around the time it renamed as the BBC News Channel in 2008, I gained access to broadband internet, starting my shift towards getting most of my news online, even if still led by BBC News, live streaming and reports now even more immediate than television can provide.


Sharing programmes between the BBC’s two news channels has happened since the launch of BBC News 24, and if the bulletins weren’t shared, the stories often were. The UK feed of the new “BBC News” channel will be able to break in with, well, UK-based breaking news, just like live news pages appear on the BBC News website. If I don’t catch one, I will catch the other.


With the new channel broadcasting worldwide, opting out at various points for UK news, this relaunch could be seen as the death of the domestic news channel through cost cutting. With BBC World News being a commercial enterprise, and not funded by the UK’s TV licence fee, there is an argument for the BBC preserving that which makes money to make more programmes, but BBC World News also reaches nearly a hundred million people every week, a major example of British cultural soft power emulated by English-language channels from broadcasters like NHK of Japan, TRT from Turkey, and Al-Jazeera in Qatar. 


Meanwhile, audiences to UK news channels are usually measured in the tens of thousands. The commercial Sky News, arguing in 1999 that a publicly funded news channel was unfair and illegal under EU law, a complaint rejected by the European Commission, has not made money since it launched in 1989. The audiences of the right-leaning GB News and Talk TV, both having launched relatively recently, remain small.


Changes in newsgathering have also accelerated in recent years. Appearing on the BBC News Channel once involved travelling to its studio in London, or one of several regional centres across the UK, or being interviewed by reporters whose cameras were connected to satellite trucks, or whose footage would later be compiled in an edit suite. Now, particularly following the pandemic, contributors mostly appear from their homes, or anywhere at all, using their own computers and phones, the inevitable decline in picture and quality accepted and tolerated by both audiences and the BBC in pursuit of the news. Live reports to TV can use mobile internet to provide the link, just as reports can similarly be completed at the scene and uploaded to the channel’s production team.


The news eats through media, from newspapers to radio, through to television and online. This has just been the latest part of that process.

No comments:

Post a Comment