EXCLUSIVE: The BBC News channel has scaled back its “visualized radio” experiment around six months after it was a centerpiece of the network’s relaunch.
The news channel has halved the airtime handed over to Nicky Campbell‘s BBC Radio 5 Live show, meaning he now has an hour-long slot on weekday mornings.
The BBC invested in new technology to allow it to broadcast Campbell’s audience phone-in show on TV after merging its international and domestic news channels into a single network in April.
In August, the BBC reduced the 9AM show to an hour in length on a trial basis amid the FIFA Women’s World Cup. It has now made the change permanent.
An insider said it has allowed the news channel to devote more time to speeches during political party conference season. There is also a feeling that it has helped make the BBC News channel’s morning output more “rounded.”
Sources close to Campbell’s show said the team had argued for an hour slot before the April launch. There is a view that it is now a more focused offering, with a stronger set of guests. “We all prefer it,” said one person familiar with the change.
A BBC News spokesperson said: “Following a trial in August, the Nicky Campbell show is now an hour long on the news channel. This ensures an hour of engaging, topical debate with a range of views, as well more flexible scheduling for other news events such as party conferences.”
BBC Dispute With Presenters Nears End Game
The change comes as the BBC’s dispute with five female news channel presenters is set to enter its end game over the coming weeks.
Martine Croxall, Karin Giannone, Geeta Guru-Murthy, Kasia Madera, and Annita McVeigh have not featured on the BBC News channel since March amid a standoff over their future.
The women failed to land one of the UK-based chief presenter roles and have serious misgivings about the BBC’s recruitment process, alleging that successful candidates were told they would get the jobs before hiring got underway.
Their concerns have been investigated by Daryl Maitland, head of HR at BBC Studios. Deadline understands that he is expected to deliver his conclusions imminently, which could pave the way to some sort of resolution.
The presenters are keen to return to work, but do not wish to take a pay cut or a demotion. Meanwhile, the BBC has been forced to turn to countless hours of freelance cover in the women’s absence.
Insiders say the dispute has left a cloud over the relaunched BBC News channel. They are keen for the situation to be resolved so the channel can have the best chance of success.
Viewers have been switching off the BBC News channel since its relaunch. Its audience reach was 9.5M viewers in August, which is likely to be one of its worst months in years, according to Barb, the UK’s official audience research group.
News channels usually have lower ratings in August as people go on vacation, but BBC News’ 9.5M viewers was nearly 1.3M down on the same month in 2022. By comparison, Sky News’ reach was relatively flat year-on-year, while GB News grew its audience by 7% to 2.8M.