AudioUK, the UK trade body for independent audio production companies, is calling for all of BBC Radio and Audio’s non-news programme commissions to be open to competition for external producers.
The demand assumes that BBC speech audio production will be moving to BBC Studios following an ongoing review at the national broadcaster.
The BBC is currently carrying out an internal review of its radio and audio speech production operation, which could result in its being moved out of the BBC’s public service operation and into its commercial arm, BBC Studios.
When the BBC previously moved its TV production to BBC Studios, enabling it to compete against independent creative TV producers to make programmes for other broadcasters, the government in return required that the BBC open up all of its TV commissioning to external competition, by the end of the current charter period.
Currently in radio commissioning, the BBC must open up 60 per cent of ‘eligible hours’ for radio commissions to external competition by the end of this year. This lower target is based on the fact that currently much of the BBC’s radio and audio production remains in-house and they cannot make programmes for other commissioners such as Amazon, Audible or Spotify.
AudioUK is arguing that if the BBC is allowed to compete against its members in the open audio production market, independent audio producers should correspondingly be able to compete for all non–news BBC speech productions. It is discussing this with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport in the context of its Mid-Term Charter Review, as well as discussing with Ofcom the due regulatory processes to which the BBC speech production move would be subject, prior to being made.
Chloe Straw, MD of AudioUK, said: “For the BBC to reach its audience in new creative ways, it’s really important that both live and on-demand audio content is being made by a widespread and diverse a range of producers. It would represent huge market bias for the BBC to be in a position where they were able to compete against the independent production sector in other markets, while a big proportion of its own shows remained excluded from the chance to be made by creative companies offering new ideas, stories, talent and perspectives.”