Government warned ads in BBC podcasts will have negative impact

An open letter has been sent to culture secretary Lucy Frazer by commercial media and content businesses warning of the negative effects if the BBC includes ads in podcasts.

The 20 signatories of broadcasters, audio producers and publishers who joined as a coalition to send the letter, highlighted the disastrous impact of such a change for consumers, licence fee payers and the creative economy.

The BBC’s services are currently funded by £3.8bn in licence fee income. Commercial media businesses – across television, radio, news and podcasting – rely primarily on advertising revenues, which would be eroded significantly if the BBC also sought to generate advertising. This would inevitably reduce the ability of commercial operators to invest in content and services for audiences.

Radiocentre, the industry body for commercial radio, supports calls for Ofcom to conduct an urgent review of the audio and podcast market, before the BBC, which is dominant in UK audio, implements these radical new changes as set out in its Annual Plan in April 2024. 

Radiocentre CEO Matt Payton said: “Audiences do not expect advertising around BBC content, which they have already paid for through the licence fee. The BBC receives significant funding from the licence fee and should not be seeking advertising in addition to this.

“The unique funding and position of the BBC also means that any change of this nature would have a serious impact on the broader market, as well as an inevitable negative impact on the wider UK creative economy.

“Industry opposition is overwhelming, and we urge the government to act quickly and engage with Ofcom which has the power to intervene.”

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