BBC bosses plan dry run of the merged TV news channels in two weeks’ time ahead of April launch, but Ofcom is still reviewing operating licence changes.
The new BBC News service will officially combine the UK’s BBC News Channel with BBC World News. Effectively, the remaining UK-only output on the BBC News Channel will close, with the new channel being led by presenters from BBC World News.
According to The Times media correspondent Alex Farber, staff have been told the combined channel officially launches on 3rd April. First trials start today, with a dry run following from 6th March. BBC staff told to expect a period of ‘trial and error’ in the coming months, but not to expect a ‘big bang’ moment, confirming earlier reports of a soft launch.
▶ Innovations promised by the BBC
- Presenters leaving the desk to roam the studio – part of more dynamic presentation.
- Evidence hub, featuring a reporter showing how footage is verified and fake news debunked.
- UK-only opt-outs in the event of breaking news stories of relevance to UK viewers to be broadcast from the weather balcony (also previously used for Outside Source).
- Under consideration: Red Button channels to offer UK viewers in-depth coverage of stories unlikely to appeal to a global audience.
UK v World News
The current combined service is already causing some conflicts in coverage:
- News from Lancashire on the discovery of a body in the River Wyre resulted in BBC World News viewers seeing UK breaking news coverage replace international news over the course of several hours on Sunday afternoon.
- Last week’s announcement of record profits at Centrica, the owner of British Gas, was reported in US Dollars instead of £ across a number of simulcast shows.
Ahead of the changes to the BBC’s TV news service output, regulator Ofcom consulted on a number of changes to the BBC’s operating licence. This included scrapping a requirement that the BBC News Channel cover more stories from the nations and regions than other rolling news channels. Changes to the operating licence would make it easier for the BBC to make changes to its services without going to public consultation or asking Ofcom first.
Over the winter, a delay in Ofcom deciding on operating licence changes forced the BBC to request changes to its operating licences and quotas regarding planned changes to BBC Radio 5 Live and already completed changes to regional news programmes on BBC One.
The regulator is expected to confirm its position regarding BBC operating licences soon, which will provide regulatory clarity as the merger of the news channels completes.
The BBC is also due to publish its annual plan by the end of next month, which will outline plans for further changes to its services in the coming 12 months.