AudioUK, the trade body for independent audio production companies, has responded to the BBC confirming that it will be moving a significant part of its speech audio production to BBC Studios by April 2024.
This 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 review 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.”
- AudioUK is the trade body for the audio-led production sector and has around 140 member companies based across the whole of the UK, representing around 95% of sector turnover.AudioUK runs the Audiotrain skills programme, which since 2014 has provided over 4,500 learner days. We also run the Audio Production Awards, an annual celebration of the craft skills of audio production. More at audiouk.org.uk
- Speech Production Review. BBC Director General Tim Davie originally announced the speech-based radio and audio review in his speech in May this year.
“Based on the rapid growth of the global podcast and audio market, we will now review our speech production areas to consider a commercial model that can tap into the global market for podcasts, strengthen our output, and ensure we keep the best people at the BBC.”
The BBC has now confirmed it is going ahead with this move and aims to complete it by April 2024.
- Competition in BBC Television commissioning. Former Director General Tony Hall set out the details of the introduction of more competition in television and BBC Studios in his ‘Compete or Compare’ speech in 2014:
“If independent [television] producers can take their ideas to any broadcaster around the world, I would want the same for BBC Production. We’re up for a discussion as to whether they should offer ideas to other UK broadcasters. But the world should definitely be their market.”
“And in return for removing those protections we would remove our own – in other words, the overall in-house guarantee for the whole of BBC Production.”
Subsequently, the 2016 Government White Paper on the BBC Charter said that 100% of the BBC’s non-news programing would be opened to competition to allow full creative competition, in order to: “empower commissioners to select the very best content for licence fee payers, from the BBC’s own producers and creative talent as well as from independent producers.”