BBC News Channel Viewing Slumps By 1M Viewers After Merger – Deadline

EXCLUSIVE: The BBC News channel has lost 1M viewers in the UK after it was merged with BBC World News as part of the corporation’s efforts to slash costs.

BBC News’ audience reach in April stood at 9.7M viewers, according to figures published by Barb, the UK ratings body. This was down 9% from 10.7M in March and 23% from 12.6M in April 2022.

The 9.7M figure was comfortably BBC News’ worst audience reach in at least 16 months, though it is likely to be longer, given Barb’s figures only date back to December 2021.

BBC News remains the most-watched news network in the UK. Its closest rival is Sky News, which had a reach of 7.7M last month. New entrants GB News and TalkTV posted audiences of 2.8M and 1.4M respectively.

April was the first month that BBC News broadcast merged output with World News, with the channel taking on a more international flavor, even though it does split for big domestic stories.

Presenters familiar to UK audiences, including Ben Brown and Jane Hill, have exited the channel as part of the changes, which have proved unpopular with employees.

Insiders said BBC managers were warned about a potential ratings slump and Barb’s figures were “entirely predictable.” One person said the channel’s agenda was “relentlessly global,” while a second added: “The UK viewer never knows what they’re going to get.”

A third insider said the audience drop was indicative of a wider downward trend in news viewing. They argued, however, that viewers still come to the BBC for big stories, such as elections, and online engagement is increasing.

Ofcom has voiced concerns about the merger and it is understood that representatives from the UK media regulator visited BBC News last month. Kevin Bakhurst, Ofcom’s outgoing Group Director, said the BBC’s failure to properly explain the changes had resulted in “a lot of uncertainty for audiences.”

The BBC first suggested the channel merger last May as part of measures aimed at plugging a £1.4B ($1.7M) hole in its finances after the license fee was frozen. It has also positioned the merger as an opportunity to reinvent the BBC’s news output for a digital age.

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