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BBC radio to be offered globally as ‘Netflix-style’ service


The BBC is to offer its radio content around the world as it bids to become “the Netflix of the spoken word”.

Director general Tony Hall will outline plans to offer all of the BBC’s audio content as well as World Service broadcast services to viewers and listeners outside the UK in a speech on Wednesday. No decision has yet been taken on whether to charge overseas users – who do not pay the licence fee – for the service.

The proposals come as the BBC is facing increased competition from streaming services such as Netflix, which launched The Crown – its £100m biopic of the Queen – earlier this month.

“The BBC makes the best radio in the world. It is one of our crown jewels, and we have an extraordinary wealth of audio riches at our disposal,” Hall is to tell attendees of the Voice of the Listener and Viewer conference.

“But, with the level of excellence we have, are we doing enough to push the fantastic drama, arts, comedy and entertainment we deliver on the world stage? With our world-class content, we could use our current output and the richness of our archive to create a Netflix of the spoken word.”

The BBC believes the expansion of its audio services, including access to archive footage that typically disappears after 30 days on the BBC iPlayer service, will allow listeners in China, for example, to hear content that is currently difficult to find.

Hall has earmarked enhancing the BBC’s audio “offer” as “one of the big challenges” facing his team. Audio sits alongside news, natural history, drama, education, science and the arts as areas in which the corporation believes it can lead the way globally.

The BBC’s ability to broadcast around the world has formed part of the last two licence fee settlements. The government agreed a £289m funding boost for the world service in 2015, five years after forcing the corporation to take on the £245m annual cost of the World Service, which had previously been funded by the Foreign and Further details of the proposals, including how the audio service would be funded, will be unveiled in the spring.

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