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Ofcom will take steps to ensure merged BBC News channel serves UK audiences

The merged channel is expected to launch in April 2023.

Ellie Iorizzo
Friday 26 August 2022 14:18 BST
BBC (Ian West/PA)
BBC (Ian West/PA) (PA Archive)

Ofcom said it will “if necessary, take steps” to ensure the merged BBC News channel continues to compete fairly and deliver for audiences in the UK.

In July, it was announced BBC News and BBC World News will merge to create a single 24-hour TV channel, which will be called BBC News, expecting to launch in April 2023.

The new channel will be broadcast from London during the day and then Singapore and Washington DC and will serve UK and international audiences, the BBC previously said.

BBC News studio (Jeff Overs/PA) (PA Media)

The broadcaster has not released detailed proposals for the channel but it is expected to provide coverage of global breaking news and a domestic-only stream for specific news events.

Ofcom sets an Operating Licence with requirements to ensure that audiences across the UK are well served by the BBC and that the corporation delivers its remit.

On Friday, the media watchdog said it is currently “consulting with stakeholders” on how best to adapt the Operating Licence to allow the BBC to undertake the necessary transformation while “continuing to deliver high quality distinctive content for UK audiences”.

“We have not yet seen detailed delivery plans for the merged channel and how the BBC will continue to serve UK audiences and deliver its remit,” Ofcom said.

(Yui Mok/PA) (PA Archive)

“In particular, we expect the BBC to be clear about how it plans to ensure that BBC News will continue to provide high quality UK news.

“If we have concerns, we can impose conditions in the Operating Licence relating specifically to BBC News and how it must serve UK audiences.”

The regulator said that it has no reason to expect a change to BBC News would have a “significant adverse impact on competition in the UK”.

It added: “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.

“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.”

A BBC spokesperson said: “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.”

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