The BBC has outlined changes it believes will “reinvent and refresh” its brand across local radio and regional news in England. It says it is the biggest restructure it has undertaken in the past 50 years.
Chief among these changes is the expansion of The Social from Scotland, a youth-facing brand that embraces new talent and reaches young audiences, as the name suggests on social media. The Glasgow-based team launched in 2015 and its performance has warranted an expansion into neighbouring England.
Director of BBC England Helen Thomas also explained how the management structure has been rearranged. Ten head of regions and head of digital roles will close, replaced with six new senior editorial roles including a head of news, a head of TV commissioning and four regional leads. Chris Burns, who was hired as head of audio and digital in 2018 will continue to lead local radio. The move consolidates 11 senior managers to eight in the region.
Thomas said: “We want to have clear leaders for all our services and operate in terms of platforms rather than geographical locations. Ultimately, this is all about providing a better experience for our audiences.”
She said that BBC England is in a “strong position” with its regional TV bulletins being collectively the most watched news programme on UK TV. She also outlined that six million people listen to its local radio stations each week. She added: “But there are significant groups who don’t engage enough with what we do. England is changing and audience behaviour is changing, too. This presents us with a challenge and an exciting opportunity.
“We’re going to reinvent and refresh what we do in England to ensure we reflect all of the country’s diverse communities while providing services in ways people want them.
“We will be about more than news; we will own local conversations and reflect life in modern England, recognising the different audience demands in different parts of the country and what that means for our output. And we will become the BBC’s front door for new talent, the place where the broadcasting stars of tomorrow are uncovered and nurtured.”
BBC will implement the changes throughout the coming year. On the local radio front, this means building on the 15 hours of weekly original content each station must create, in addition to serving as a national talent funnel.