BBC reinvents news for smart speakers with UK’s first interactive voice news service

With more people using smart speakers than ever before, the BBC is reinventing the way it delivers news on voice devices.

Published: 23 October 2019
Delivering the trusted content people expect from the BBC, this new form of audio news comes at an important moment.
— Mukul Devichand

Today the BBC is launching the UK’s first interactive voice news service, to help people navigate a complex and ever changing news agenda and get closer to the stories that matter to them.

People who use smart speakers can now skip ahead to the stories they have time for, and find out more about the stories that grab their attention by saying ‘Give me BBC News’ to an Alexa-enabled device. They’ll also be able to access additional content from a range of sources, including:

  • Specialist pieces: Reporting, interviews and features from BBC News’ many specialist reporters and correspondents who add new angles on the day’s emerging stories
  • Flexible bulletins: Listeners can get news bulletins at a time and length that suits them - not restricted by the BBC’s schedules, and can explore longer interviews or stories that are forced to make way for breaking news
  • The BBC archive: Where relevant, clips and interviews from the BBC’s vast radio archive will supplement current stories, providing invaluable context and voices from the past

While the BBC’s traditional bulletins might only have time to play a short clip of a speech in the House of Commons, people who use smart speakers who’d like more detail on the story can now decide to listen to the speech in full. As well as this, listeners could also take a trip down memory lane with the BBC archives and delve into past interviews from stars currently in the news agenda.

Mukul Devichand, executive editor, BBC Voice and AI, says: "Smart speakers give us the chance to reimagine what radio would be like if it were invented today, free from its technical limitations. By making the news interactive on smart speakers, listeners can jump to the stories they need to hear just before rushing out of the house, or, when they have more time, they can delve into a piece and find out more.

“Delivering the trusted content people expect from the BBC, this new form of audio news comes at an important moment. It will help people navigate through one of the most dramatic news cycles in recent times.”

Andy Webb, Head of Product, BBC Voice and AI, says: “A world of opportunities open up once you connect a speaker to the internet and make it interactive. We’re taking advantage of that by combining our world-class content makers and engineers, exploring how this exciting new medium could look and how we can better serve our audiences now and in future.”

The BBC is introducing interactive news on voice devices on Amazon Alexa-enabled devices to begin with, and will be looking to introduce it on other platforms in the future.