BBC executive warns of major shakeup to TV bulletins despite huge viewership spikes

BBC executive warns of major shakeup to TV bulletins despite huge viewership spikes

August 20, 2020

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Warnings about scrapping the classic bulletins comes as the BBC’s news coverage moves online. It also follows audiences for the BBC bulletins at 6pm and 10pm doubling during the coronavirus pandemic. BBC News at Six reported an audience of eight million, while the 10pm bulletin recorded six million.

Fran Unsworth has predicted news will be in “the digital space” completely in the near future.

She also predicted the BBC’s output of news content will primarily be consumed on smartphones and tablets through the iPlayer app.

Despite the doubled audience, Ms Unsworth said the BBC does not expect viewing figures to remain that high in future.

It comes as the corporation announced it is cutting over 500 jobs in its news division to help save a staggering £80 million throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Ms Unsworth added she believes young people tuning into the station during the pandemic is the reason behind the viewership spike.

She said: “They’re sitting down and watching a television bulletin in a way that I thought they weren’t ever really going to again.”

But she also downplayed hopes that the younger audience would continue to engage with the TV bulletins.

She added: “I’m not under any illusions, to be quite honest with you, because I’ve seen it in the past.

“You get these big peaks, the big stories like the Bataclan and London Bridge attacks, then the audience falls off again quite rapidly.”

Ms Unsworth also suggested there may still be one bulletin a day, but there will definitely be less bulletins on the television.

She added: “I think that the power of how you tell stories through television, pictures, video will just be in a different space.

“It’ll be in the digital space, it’ll be on, you know, iPlayer. It’ll be on your tablet, your iPhone.

“We have to think creatively about what the product is, but that’s the direction of travel and I don’t think that’s changed.”

It comes as the BBC announced 520 job cuts, equalling one in six, to save money during the pandemic in July.

While redundancies were announced before the pandemic, strain from coronavirus has increased the need to cut costs.

Ms Unsworth said at the time: “This crisis has led us to re-evaluate exactly how we operate as an organisation.

“And our operation has been underpinned by the principles we set out earlier this year: fewer stories, more targeted and with more impact.”

The corporation has also announced that it will axe Newsround’s afternoon bulletin, as its young viewers continue to fall.

Ofcom has cleared plans to end the afternoon bulletin for the show, meaning the BBC can slash the total hours of its children focused news show from 85 to 35 a year.

Newsround’s average TV audience size among children aged six to 12 was 24,000 in April and May, compared to 37,000 in the same months last year.

In contrast, Newsround’s online audience continued to grow by 25 percent during the first three months of the pandemic.

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