Commercial sector could benefit by over £8m a year if BBC axes 'softer news', says report

Commercial news providers could benefit by more than £8 million a year if the BBC’s online news service curtailed publishing softer news and focused on more in-depth analysis, according to a government-commissioned report.

The report, published by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and carried out by media advisers Oliver & Ohlbaum Associates, scrutinised the “market impact” and “distinctiveness” of the BBC's TV, radio and online operations.

The report highlighted the possible benefit to commercial news providers, such as Channel 4 and ITV News as well as local newspapers, should  the BBC shift its news focus.

The report said:  "A shift in the positioning of the BBC’s online news and information services away from 'softer' news stories and towards more in-depth analysis and explanation.

"If this were to affect content currently accounting for around 15 per cent of BBC news page views, the increase in commercial revenue would be likely to amount to between £3.2m to £8.2m a year, potentially with a positive net market impact."

The report also highlighted the potential benefits to the BBC’s broadcast rivals, such as ITV, Channel 5 and Channel 4 and commercial radio competitors such as Capital FM and Talk Sport, if the BBC would pull back from offering some services.

The BBC has faced long-standing criticism for over-stretching its public service remit by screening overtly commercial and expensive shows, such as The Voice, the talent show which has now been acquired by ITV.

The report said that if BBC One were to shift away from mass-market populist programmes towards more a more eclectic mix of genres “and add a significant number of new titles in its schedules” then it could increase revenues of commercial rivals, like ITV and Channel 4, by £33m to £40m a year.

This could possibly rise to between £50m and £60m a year by the end of the next charter renewal at the end of 2016.

Furthermore, the report suggest that the BBC’s rival commercial radio stations could get a boost of up to £38m a year, rising to £47m by the next charter renewal, if the corporation's music and sports radio services concentrated on lower profile sports and offered a broader range of music.

Overall, advertising-funded revenue for the BBC’s commercial rivals across TV, radio and online could rise to an additional £115m by the end of the next charter period, the report said.

Responding to the report, the BBC said: “We welcome the report’s recognition of the BBC’s important role in the creative economy and that our strategy to create an open BBC with more partnerships can enhance that.

“The BBC’s services must continue to be run in the interests of audiences, not for the benefit of competitors. We are concerned that some of the report’s proposals would risk undermining the universal appeal, reach and quality of the BBC’s main services, BBC1, BBC2, Radio 1, Radio 2 and BBC Online."

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