AddThis SmartLayers

Publishers voice alarm over BBC plan to feature audio ads

Owen Meredith 2022News publishers have voiced “alarm” over reports that the BBC is planning to introduce advertising on some of its audio output.

A report in today’s Times newspaper said the corporation wants to introduce advertising around its podcasts and on-demand radio shows when they are streamed via third-party services such as Apple and Spotify.

But the plan has met with a furious response from the News Media Association, which represents commercial publishers.

Its chief executive Owen Meredith warned it could have “catastrophic” consequences for the rest of the media and called on regulators to put a stop to it.

Said Owen, pictured: “The news that the BBC is apparently set to muscle into the UK advertising marketplace by competing with commercial players for advertising around audio output is very alarming.

“Such an intervention will profoundly distort competition, wreaking havoc on commercial players right across the media and advertising sector.

“The BBC must not be allowed to use the might of its licence fee-powered services in the advertising marketplace otherwise the consequences for our media could be catastrophic.

“This would set an extremely dangerous precedent and these plans must be stopped immediately.”

Posting on X, Iliffe Media editorial director Ian Carter described the idea as “an interesting new development in the BBC’s ongoing mission to squash every other media outlet, irrespective of the platform.

Said Ian: “So programming will be funded via a compulsory tax and then advertising will be sold around it anyway. The very opposite of a level playing field.

“Of course, crossing the Rubicon in this way isn’t risk-free for the BBC either.

“If they want to compete commercially, they are welcome to go for it – but there’s never been a clearer argument for removing the licence fee at the same time.”

According to The Times, the adverts are expected to start appearing this year around some of its smaller factual, drama and comedy shows, with higher-profile programmes such as The Archers, Desert Island Discs and In Our Time set to follow if the first phase is deemed a success.

News and current affairs programming will be excluded and all shows will continue to be made available without advertising via the corporation’s BBC Sounds service.

A BBC spokesperson said: “Listeners will continue to hear BBC audio without ads on BBC Sounds, but as many of our podcasts are available on commercial platforms like Apple and Spotify where adverts are the norm, we look to carry them in some of our content to generate more revenue to support the BBC, licence fee payers, our suppliers and rightsholders.”

A regulatory assessment around the plans is ongoing.