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A subtle change

Stephen Mitchell Stephen Mitchell | 13:39 UK time, Monday, 15 October 2007

Listeners to BBC radio might have noticed a subtle change in the way we are announcing our news bulletins. It might be useful for me to explain what we have done and why we've done it.

For instance, until last week, a bulletin on Radio Four would be introduced with the words: “BBC Radio Four, the news at two o'clock." It would conclude with the words "BBC Radio Four news". Now, however, we have changed the script slightly and you will hear "BBC News on Radio Four, it's two o'clock" at the start of the bulletin and "BBC News for Radio Four" at the end. Other networks have similar changes which we have worked out after talking to the different channels.

These are small changes, but we know that the familiar rhythms of our broadcasts are valued by listeners. We don't change them lightly. The reason we've chosen to do it here is that the audience is now consuming BBC News across a wider variety of channels and platforms than ever before. The advice we were given was that we needed to simplify the identity of BBC News, given that it's such a trusted and central part of what the BBC offers, and to make it as recognisable as possible across all the services we offer.

When a bulletin has been produced by BBC News, it's sensible and reasonable to tell people it's been produced by BBC News. We did audience research into the new script, and people told us they were quite happy with this sort of wording. They felt it added authority and credibility to our output.


"When a bulletin has been produced by BBC News, it's sensible and reasonable to tell people it's been produced by BBC News"

Sounds like an excellent rearguard action against the proposed cuts. Good work!

(that said mind, I'm not sure the great British public give a monkeys which DEPARTMENT of the BBC does what, we don't much care about your organisational structures)

  • 3.
  • At 02:19 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • Des Currie wrote:

If the introduction and ending need to be changed to add " authority and credibility to our output" then would it safe to assume that the upgrade from the previous lesser authority and credibility will in no way change the actual news, and that we can continue to enjoy the BBC, still twisted slightly in the shape of a Hail Britannia?
Des Currie

  • 4.
  • At 02:22 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • Debbie Wilson wrote:

Thanks for the clarification. I used to think Sky produced news bulletins on the BBC!

  • 5.
  • At 02:36 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • Mike Daly wrote:

Authority and credibility are derived from the standard of the content not from a name. Stephen, I am struggling to understand the purpose of the change or the value of your explanation.

BBC News in all its forms must focus on what has actually happened rather than speculating on what might happen. Give us clear, accurate, fair and balanced reports on events of significance rather than celebrity gossip and political spin. You don't need audience research to tell you that is why BBC News exists.

Mod #4 up.

The fact that anyone at the beeb spent time contemplating this change makes me very angry. What a waste of my license fee.

  • 7.
  • At 03:32 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • Jonathan wrote:

Four reasons why it is a foolish change:

1. Are you really suggesting that before the change, listeners thought there was a difference between the radio news, and television & online news output? Do not the letters 'BBC' fairly conclusively identify all output as from the same stable?

2. Further, does not the change in language mask the differences in news output that is tailored for different media? No longer are listeners given the impression that the news has been selected to fit their interests and concerns.

3. Where will this stop? Should we change television news bulletins to "And now on BBC One, it's time for BBC News on BBC One" or "You're watching BBC News on BBC News 24 with me..."?

4. You start by noting how seriously you take these changes, knowing that listeners like the familiar rhythm. Is the distinction between "BBC Radio x News" and "BBC News for Radio x" really so great as to go to the trouble of meetings, discussions, editorial guidelines, training, implementation, upsetting listeners, and then defending it? Is this change and the associated costs - time and money - involved really to the benefit of the license fee payer?

  • 8.
  • At 04:27 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • Brian wrote:

This is thoroughly pointless - why did you waste licence fee money even discussing it? Do you think radio listners are idiots? I know full well that if a news bulletin is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 is has come from the BBC. As Les Dawson used to say, "The clue is in the question...."

  • 9.
  • At 04:49 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • jamie wrote:

This change only makes sense if you consider BBC News as somehow seperate from any of the other "platforms" you refer to.

It is a deeply silly thing to do, as if I thought Fox News produced WATO.

Please tell us you didn't engage consultants to give you the "advice" you received.

  • 10.
  • At 04:55 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • STEPHEN wrote:


  • 11.
  • At 05:22 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • Joe C wrote:

Actually, I'd always - perhaps subconsciously - perceived (say) Newsbeat to be a different entity to (say) Radio 4 News; more so than they actually are, I'm sure. This will create a stronger identity for BBC News - I can't see anything wrong with that.

  • 12.
  • At 05:23 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • Gary Lucken wrote:

This is exactly the sort of nonsense that explains why the BBC is a pathetic waste of space.

Have you really got nothing better to do with your time?

"When a bulletin has been produced by BBC News, it's sensible and reasonable to tell people it's been produced by BBC News."

Patronising drivel....

  • 13.
  • At 07:00 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • Anthony wrote:

I know change is never particularly welcome and my instinct is generally to hold off commenting until the changes have bedded-in.

But in this case, this sucks. It seems to be a naval gazing exercise instituted for reasons that are entirely internal to the BBC.

I agree with comment #7 - there isn't even a oonsistent application behind the new phrasing.

  • 14.
  • At 07:16 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • Rich wrote:

The phrase 'rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic' springs to mind. Or perhaps 'fiddling whilst Rome burns' is more apt, given the increasing inevitability of the fall of a once-great Empire...

  • 15.
  • At 08:27 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • Ben Rattigan wrote:

This is the start of a grand program of outsourcing and privitisation of the BBC. Great you may think, no more licence fee. If the BBC is privitised we will see advertisement, poor quality ratings focused programmes and yes the licence fee is here to stay.

  • 16.
  • At 08:30 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • Bob Oliver wrote:

Like the change of logo - time and money wasted and the public would not have noticed unless you told us

  • 17.
  • At 08:48 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • David Wenham wrote:

I don't like this subtle change -'the advice we were given'- I just wonder who exactly gave you this advice? It's just a repeat of the Radio 4 UK theme disaster. Listen - don't fix it if it ain't broken.

  • 18.
  • At 09:11 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • Alistair Watson wrote:

If you spent as much time and thought ensuring your news bulletin was accurate, fair and balanced I would be very impressed.

  • 19.
  • At 09:43 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • Mike B wrote:

BBC Radio, er, yawn.

If you can't post something interesting, please don't bother.

  • 20.
  • At 09:45 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • Chris, Kent wrote:

The new opening title to the news bulletins does not have the same audible fluency to it now because the numbers in your example, Four and Two, come too close together. Responsibility for identifying Radio Four really belongs to the continuity announcer. This would leave the newsreader to come in after the time signal saying: “BBC News at two o’clock” a much neater beginning. Radio Four would still get a mention at the end.

  • 21.
  • At 10:06 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • Simon Shaw wrote:

Why does this remind me of the scene in The Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy when the Galgafrinchans are re-inventing the wheel on prehistoric Earth and their top priority is what colour it should be.

  • 22.
  • At 10:26 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • Claire B wrote:

I heard the sad and unbelievable justification for this on Feedback. They claimed that the listeners were demanding it - none that I ever talk to! It's the usual justification for senior manager's salaries, let's think of our latest inclusive wheeze. I noticed it immediately and I do not like it. However, having listened to the man on Feedback, the message was 'don't care if you don't like it, we going to do do it anyway (after all, we know best).'

  • 23.
  • At 11:20 PM on 15 Oct 2007,
  • Bedd Gelert wrote:

"The reason we've chosen to do it here is that the audience is now consuming BBC News across a wider variety of channels and platforms than ever before."

What utter utter tosh !! Do I look across to my bedside table in the morning and think ' that my mobile phone or my television I spy there making that noise'. Then I may put on my glasses to see where that sound of Harriet Cass is coming from. Or indeed which 'channel' she is on. But as I my specs make it possible for me to see, lo and behold ! My thoughts are 'Well blow me down.. that sound is coming from my radio ! Well who'd have thought it ! And the 'channel' it is on is, no let me guess, the same channel it was on last night for 'Today in Parliament', yes.. It's coming to me, yes Radio 4! '

Much as I hate what Mark Thomson has planned for news at the BBC, if it means getting rid of inane nonsense like this, well, this particular cloud may have another silver lining to accompany the departure of Natasha Kaplinsky...

As usual, dull moaning about wasting of the license fee.

I think it's a good idea- most channels/outlets have different presents and different tones of output- it is important to clarify that all news is outputted by the same overall unit.

On a wider note, it is an interesting comment on the whole "BBC cutbacks" ongoing story- should we expect more departments clarifying the work they are responsible for, lest their budget/staff be cut back too?

  • 25.
  • At 09:53 AM on 16 Oct 2007,
  • WillPax wrote:

I'm confused. I read in the Telegraph that 'BBC News' consists of several teams producing news for their own outlet. This leading to duplication of work - possibly several BBC journalists working on the same story. So is 'BBC News' now one big empire or still a lot of little empires? Has anything changed?

  • 26.
  • At 11:32 AM on 16 Oct 2007,
  • seamus mcneill wrote:

This is the equivalent of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. I wonder how many high powered meetings were held to make this momentous change which has absolutely no relevance to the listener. BBC Executives need to get out more!

  • 27.
  • At 12:32 PM on 16 Oct 2007,
  • Timothy F Clarke wrote:

You say "it's sensible and reasonable to tell people it's been produced by BBC News." Yes Stephen, it's also sensible and reasonable not to be wasting money on exercises like this when you have £2billion to save. What next? Will it be sensible and reasonable to point out that as the news is being broadcast on the radio listeners should not be concerned if they don't see a picture?

  • 28.
  • At 01:34 PM on 16 Oct 2007,
  • James Rigby wrote:

Rather than this pointless change, how about considering the triplication of the news every hour on the Today programme. First, one of the presenters tells us the headlines, then the newsreader tells us the headlines again. Thirdly the newsreader expands upon each of the headlines.

  • 29.
  • At 02:20 PM on 16 Oct 2007,
  • Ben wrote:

How many committees and focus groups were required to come up with this little gem?

The self perpetuating middle management cabal at the BBC continues to create work for itself.

I sincerely hope it is this expensive rump of nonentities who will shortly be recieving P45s.

  • 30.
  • At 03:16 PM on 16 Oct 2007,
  • Chris Barclay wrote:

It might seem a waste of the small amount it will have cost but look to the longer term. Savings have to be made and its rumoured that the 'head count in BBC news' will have to be reduced.

How long before BBC News becomes just that across several networks and perhaps local radio?

Or am I just a cynic?

  • 31.
  • At 04:06 PM on 16 Oct 2007,
  • Jason F-B wrote:

Considering that every BBC channel is introduced as BBC Whatever... such as 'Now on BBC One', now on BBC Radio Four there seems to be irony in the fact you now seem happy to drop is from BBC News on Radio Four. What has happened to BBC Radio Four? Dropping it just to suit the BBC News re-brand just shows how inane and when it suits attitude there is...

  • 32.
  • At 04:18 PM on 16 Oct 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

I know a subtle change that would improve BBC's news broadcasts. How about telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth for a change. But don't do it all at once, the shock of it might send me into cardiac arrest.

  • 33.
  • At 01:45 AM on 17 Oct 2007,
  • Mike Porter wrote:

Let's hope Mr Thompson's budget cutting starts right here by getting rid of this media luvvie twaddle.

  • 34.
  • At 09:01 AM on 17 Oct 2007,
  • Andrew Langstone wrote:

In one link between programmes last night, I lost count of the number of times the 'BBC' was mentioned - and another new style is emerging, when trailing an up-coming drama, the announcer said'...for the BBC a tale of....'
Please credit the listener with just an ounce of intelligence. We tuned into the station so we should have an idea that it is Radio 4 - this is over-branding and it's becoming a pain.

  • 35.
  • At 09:40 AM on 17 Oct 2007,
  • Sophie wrote:

I thought there was "one BBC" and not several. This smacks of internal BBC games with the News people trying to stand aside from the others. I'll be surprised if we hear anymore from Steve about the 'research' that led to this nonsense.

  • 36.
  • At 11:02 AM on 17 Oct 2007,
  • Ian Chorley wrote:

Don't we all know that the BBC's radio news programs are produced by the BBC?...

  • 37.
  • At 02:14 PM on 17 Oct 2007,
  • Kate wrote:

It's really annoying. Please change it back. Radio 4 news just isn't the same.

  • 38.
  • At 02:52 PM on 17 Oct 2007,
  • Kate wrote:

It's really annoying. Please change it back. Radio 4 news just isn't the same.

  • 39.
  • At 03:45 PM on 17 Oct 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

How many colours of fluff did you find in your naval whilst making this decision?

I think you'd best get your coat, it can't be long before the auditors are due.

  • 40.
  • At 06:55 AM on 18 Oct 2007,
  • hodgetts wrote:

I suggest the BBC's excellent, fairplay, programme, "Have Your Say" allow customers to react to the BBC product. It is an important talking point. It would not be necessary to encourage outrageous criticism, on the contrary, people like me would like to sing the praises of some journalists(Lyse Doucet, Zeinab Badawi, Caroline Hawley). If I were allowed one criticism I would mention the waste of money sending so many sports reporters to so many football matches (radio and tv) when the results are available on internet. The unions must have established these "sports tourists" with their flights and hotels paid, over the years.

But the good work of the BBC far outweighs any errors.

  • 41.
  • At 10:38 AM on 18 Oct 2007,
  • Oli wrote:

Why would you need to standardise the news at all? Everyone knows that news on BBC channels and radio stations is produced by the BBC. EVERYONE. And lets face it if somebody doesn't know that then they're probably not going to have much interest in the news anyway OR the ability to do anything more than hum along to the jingle, let alone understand the content.
The same news articles aren't read on every station either. Listen to Newsbeat on Radio 1, sorry I mean BBC Newsbeat on BBC Radio 1, and the stories are completely different from those on Radio 2,3 or 4. Why these small moronic changes? All the things I used to love about the BBC and the fact that it did have some slight intellectual merit are slowly being got rid of. Nice One. NOT.

  • 42.
  • At 12:17 PM on 18 Oct 2007,
  • Sue Hibberd wrote:

Meanwhile there have been major changes since the last time was updated to the Digital Television LCNs for Radio 4, and trhe logo has changed too, but the page stays as it was before 18 October 2005.

Won't you please look at this too?

  • 43.
  • At 12:53 PM on 18 Oct 2007,
  • Nick Meredith wrote:

I'd noticed this change, but hadn't seen a statement about it until reading this blog today.

It is not BBC news. It is news, reported by the BBC.

The BBC doesn't own it, it merely acts as the means to bring the news to us, one amongst many.

Occasionally, today for example, the news is about the BBC. Maybe the reason it has been brought to the point of having to sack large parts of it's news an current affairs organisation is that it is the only way of forcing BBC management to realise that the news is larger than they are.

  • 44.
  • At 02:07 PM on 18 Oct 2007,
  • Andrew Summersgill wrote:

I can't believe you've written so much about so little. Honestly, does ANYONE really care about this "issue"? If they do then give me their details and I'll send them some money so they can buy a life. Get over yourselves.

  • 45.
  • At 04:57 PM on 18 Oct 2007,
  • phil pilgrim wrote:

Does it matter what the wording is,anyone interested in listening to the news must be intelligent enough to understand the source.I wonder if the change has made any jobs safer if this was the reason.

  • 46.
  • At 05:28 PM on 18 Oct 2007,
  • Philip Baxter wrote:

How many pointless hours were wasted in discussing/debating this issue which really is of little or no interest to anyone with half a life?

  • 47.
  • At 05:38 PM on 18 Oct 2007,
  • Ross Brett wrote:

I thought it quite incredible to see on the news last night a good waste of resources by having three seperate BBC crews covering the same issue.
But spending money to research the response of changing two very short intro and outro phrases is truly incredible.

  • 48.
  • At 08:04 PM on 18 Oct 2007,
  • Rob wrote:

This is a shame. The old greeting conveyed continuity and quality. On long journeys you would hear the stories develop through the news at one, the news at three, the news at four, etc... This must have been used on countless dramas and documentaries.

Perhaps the problem really was the old greeting could only be used to introduce the news: "BBC Radio Four, the news at two o'clock -" then we hear the news

Now we have "BBC News on Radio Four, it's two o'clock -" then we hear some adverts, trailers for other BBC News programmes, something about the license fee, the name of the sponsor,

Nick, it's BBC News, a title. BBC news is indeed something different.


If you do take the programme out of the context of the live radio broadcast (eg a home recording, podcast or listen-again), the old intro remained valid. The new one just reminds you of the original context.

I am also now less clear as to whether all BBC news programming is produced by BBC News. If the original post gave an example of a BBC radio news bulletin that isn't produced by BBC News, and how that's introduced, then it would make more sense to be making the distinction. Is it the case that 6 Music News (or whatever it's called) is produced by 6 Music?

  • 50.
  • At 12:02 PM on 19 Oct 2007,
  • Hugh More wrote:

What nonsense! One - I preferred it the old way. Two - what a waste of your time and our money - spend it on retaining newsroom staff in future.

  • 51.
  • At 07:21 PM on 19 Oct 2007,
  • JP wrote:

I have to say I never liked "BBC Radio 4 news" at the end of bulletins. It used to be simply "BBC Radio news" before people started worrying we'd forget what channel we were listening to.

On a similar topic, do we really still need to have the Radio 4 frequencies drummed into us at every opportunity? "On 92 to 95 FM and 198 longwave..." etc. seems to assume that all listeners live in England.

Radio 4 is broadcast outside the 92.0 - 95.0 MHz band on 43 out of 54 of Scotland's FM transmitters, 25 out of 45 of Welsh transmitters, and 6 out of 10 Northern Irish transmitters.

Remember when the station used to be known as Radio 4 'UK'?

  • 52.
  • At 11:38 AM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • Will wrote:

We don't "consume" news we listen to it. The change is a sad reflection of the corporatism that infests almost all British Institutions. Handy too if the BBC ever wants to contract out it's news service. Maybe even franchise out radio 4.

  • 53.
  • At 03:41 PM on 09 Nov 2007,
  • Anthony wrote:

Thanks for reversing the changes - good sense has prevailed!

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