Concerns over moving BBC speech audio production to BBC Studios

Following confirmation that the BBC will be moving much of its speech audio production to BBC Studios by April 2024, trade body AudioUK has responded.

The move will mean the BBC will be competing against the independent audio production sector to make audio content, including podcasts, for other commissioners such as Amazon, Audible and Wondery.

This element is not covered by Ofcom requirements in approving the move, which instead focused on a level playing field when Studios competes against production companies for BBC commissions.

AudioUK is therefore calling for further investigation and for all of BBC Radio and Audio’s non-news programme commissions, including BBC Sounds, to be open to competition for external producers, in the event of this key part of BBC speech audio production moving to BBC Studios.

Whereas there is 100% competition for BBC TV programmes, in audio commissioning, the BBC must currently open up 60% of ‘eligible hours’ in its network radio commissions to external competition by the end of this year.

This lower target was based on the fact that much of the BBC’s radio and audio production remained in-house and they could not make programmes for other buyers.

Chloe Straw, Managing Director of AudioUK, said: “While we respect the BBC’s right to explore other opportunities, this does nevertheless have competition implications as it involves moving a production arm built with public funding into the wider commercial market to compete with creative SMEs, a market largely built over the last 20 years by the hard work and creativity of those SMEs.

“This aspect is not covered by Ofcom’s approval requirements and so has not been effectively scrutinised.”

“We are disappointed that the BBC has not taken our concerns on board and we will continue to push for a review of the wider market implications of these plans with the relevant governmental and regulatory authorities.

“In particular, as we have previously stated, we believe this move should be accompanied by creative SMEs all around the UK being given the opportunity to compete for 100% of BBC audio non-news output.”

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