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BBC Sounds Podcast Commissioning: FAQs

BBC Sounds aims to give people, especially younger listeners, the best in entertaining, experimental and highly creative audio. Our podcast commissions for BBC Sounds will be distinct and will serve that younger audience who are already more likely to listen online and on-demand.

BBC Networks

Should suppliers submit ideas to BBC Sounds or to individual BBC networks?
The podcast section of the Radio Commissioning Framework specifies that each network should have a rolling round open at all times to enable an on-going creative dialogue. Individual rounds will be set against each network’s strategy, just as BBC Sounds will be set against its own strategy. Suppliers can therefore submit proposals to BBC Sounds or to whichever network they feel is most appropriate for their idea. Every BBC podcast, however, will appear within BBC Sounds regardless of whether it is submitted to BBC Sounds or to a BBC network.

Who pays for commissioned content?
BBC Sounds will pay for content commissioned exclusively for BBC Sounds but which will not be broadcast on-air. In some cases, where content is suitable for BBC Sounds but also broadcast on-air, BBC Sounds will make a contribution to the budget. In either case, the Podcast Commissioner will determine suitability and the appropriate budget available. Rights obligations may limit music being played on a podcast which is not broadcast on air.

If a supplier submits a podcast proposal to my network that could also work for BBC Sounds but there is no budget to commission it, can BBC Sounds pay for it?
Yes. You can put it to the Podcast Commissioner for consideration and, should the idea fit against an underserved audience need, it would go through the two-stage evaluation process outlined in the commissioning brief.

Can networks set up podcast commissioning rounds with start and end dates?
Yes, but please do so in consultation with the Podcast Commissioner to ensure there is no overlap with existing or planned commissions. The Podcast Commissioner will continue to work with all the BBC Networks on their podcast strategies to ensure that they are aligned with the BBC Sounds strategy.

Can networks put a call out for ad-hoc podcast ideas?
Yes. It is important that the network strategy aligns with the BBC Sounds strategy and its requirements made clear to suppliers in commissioning briefs so that they can develop their ideas accordingly.

What input will networks have into BBC Sounds podcast commissioning rounds?
Relevant subject matter experts (e.g. network and genre commissioners, Head of Social) will be invited onto the evaluation panels and their input will be taken into consideration. However, the Podcast Commissioner’s decision is final.

Who is involved in the ‘clarification phase’?
If it is felt that the idea requires some further work to make it fit for BBC Sounds, relevant genre and network commissioners may be consulted during what is called the idea clarification phase. This is documented as ‘development’ in Proteus and can last up to six weeks. There is no guarantee that a commission will go ahead as a result of shaping an idea should the panel, and ultimately the Podcast Commissioner, feel it is not quite right for BBC Sounds.

How will we know which ideas are under consideration by BBC Sounds?
The entire process is documented in Proteus. There will also be a transparent process during which relevant genre/network commissioners are regularly sent a list of ideas under consideration. There will also be a quarterly pan-BBC Sounds update.

What about podcasts related to TV content?
The Podcast Commissioner or a member of the podcast commissioning team will work with TV to establish the pipeline from TV to podcast. This will involve agreeing the concept, defining the brief, responsibilities, budget, rights etc.

Who owns the IP on TV-related content?
There are two scenarios:
1) The owner of the content IP retains the IP and acts in an advisory role as IP holder, funder and producer of the podcast
2) The IP owner gives permission for BBC Sounds to activate an editorially-driven proposition and maximize reach

If a BBC member of staff has an idea for a podcast that they would be making in their own time. Are they eligible to submit the idea?
- Standard practice dictates is that, if ideas are created in work time then they should be channeled through the originator’s home department via Proteus and that the BBC will own the IP
- If an idea is wholly generated by someone in their own time and unrelated to their day-to-day work at the BBC then they can submit via an independent supplier

What if a freelancer has an idea for a podcast?
Freelancers should take their idea to a registered BBC Radio supplier or to an in-house BBC department to be submitted on their behalf. It would be for the freelancer and supplier to agree payment and IP terms. A freelancer with two or more active podcast feeds in the past year may be eligible to be included on the supplier database and, if so, should consider registering as an independent supplier.


What’s the policy on podcast pilots?
BBC Sounds is open to piloting distinct formats and testing new and unique voices. Please state if you feel that piloting is critical to your idea at the time of submission. If the BBC Sounds commissioning team feels that a submitted idea would benefit from a pilot, then it may too suggest one (up to a value of £3k).

What about feedback?
Clear evaluation criteria are outlined in the commissioning brief. Constructive feedback will be provided against these criteria in response to all proposals, within 90 days.

I’ve put proposals into open rounds before and I never hear anything back. How will this be different?
You will hear back within 90 days (8 working weeks). Your proposal will either be shortlisted for further consideration, moved directly to a final evaluation or rejected. If your proposal is shortlisted, it means that further discussion is happening within the BBC and further information may be required from you during this stage. This idea clarification stage will last up to six weeks.

Who owns the IP?
Where a proposal comes from BBC Studios, BBC in-house production or a commissioning department, it’s all BBC Public Service. Ownership for independent production companies depends on the development of the idea. Once a proposal is submitted, there is a two-stage evaluation process: the first is editorial and the second is value for money, risk, and strategic objectives. If substantial re-shaping of an idea is required, the BBC would seek to agree part ownership of the IP.

Is there a development budget?
As with piloting, in order to test new format and voices and get a greater understanding of submitted ideas, development budgets may be made available.

Will there be an opportunity for suppliers to meet the Podcast Commissioner?
There will be a podcast community meeting in September 2018. However, the Podcast Commissioner and team have an ongoing commitment to continually reach out and communicate with suppliers. See the briefs for relevant contacts.