Ofcom have called on the BBC to guarantee that the newly merged BBC News Channel will continue to provide high quality UK news.
It comes after the broadcaster announced plans to bring BBC News in the UK and BBC World News together into a single TV channel called BBC News in April 2023.
The new Ofcom document published today outlines the reasons why, at present, it has no reason to expect the changes to BBC News would have a significant adverse impact on competition in the UK.
However, the media regulator did warn that if issues of concern did arise, it could impose new licence conditions – to ensure the BBC continues to compete fairly and deliver for audiences in the UK.
“We have regular engagement with the BBC on all aspects of its operations and we will continue to develop our understanding of the detail of these proposals,” Ofcom said in a document. “Should any issues of concern arise we will work with the BBC to address them, and if necessary, take steps under either our performance or competition powers to ensure the BBC continues to compete fairly and deliver for audiences in the UK”.
Under the charter, the BBC is required to provide a breadth of local, regional national and UK-wide news, as well as international coverage, so that all audiences can fully engage with the issues and participate in the democratic process.
A BBC spokesperson told City A.M. this afternoon: “We welcome Ofcom’s clarification on the regulatory situation and we will work with them as our proposals take shape.
“We have exciting plans to create the best live and breaking video news service for UK audiences – on our app, online, the iPlayer and a new and improved TV news channel. This will be a fully Public Service news channel in the UK, broadcasting 24-hours a day and it will meet all of our regulatory obligations.”
And it’s not just Ofcom that have something to say about the Beeb’s bold move.
As reported by City A.M. earlier this month, BBC journalists are weighing up strike action following the merger plans.
It is understood that the main concern for unions is the potential impact on jobs.
Following the merger announcement, staff were told last month that 70 roles would be axed in London, with over a dozen of new roles advertised in Washington.
As first reported by The Times, The National Union of Journalists have since opposed the plans and opened a consultative ballot.
Employees have been asked if they would support a walkout, which could act as a bargaining chip for any negotiations with the broadcaster.
A petition called ‘Save the BBC News Channel from Closure’ has also launched and gained over 6,270 signatures.
The strategic move by the broadcaster has been largely connected to the £1.4bn gap in its finances left by the licence fee freeze confirmed by Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries in January.