Broadcast Revolution in Conversation with BBC’s Senior Broadcast Journalist, Rachel Fursman

  • Date20/7/2023
  • LocationLondon
rachel fursman

The BBC News Channel has gone through a major transformation this year—merging with BBC World TV News. It’s now a marriage of domestic and global news coverage.

A squeezed budget at the BBC is certainly one reason why this has happened. Plus the BBC has re-shaped the Channel to better cope with the digital transformation in how we all source and digest our news these days.

BBC senior journalist Rachel Fursman is one of the team that helped to re-shape the Channel. She’s been giving us her insight and talking us through the changes they’ve made.

Watch the full video, or read our overview below.

Rachel has worked for the BBC News Channel for over a decade. In that period the way audiences consume the news has changed dramatically. We increasingly turn to streaming or use apps on our smartphones instead of just turning on the TV. Rachel says shrinking TV audiences was a primary driver behind the changes made to the Channel this year. The BBC faced fierce competition for people’s time and attention, particularly among younger audiences who were not tuning in to TV news like previous generations.


The birth of a unified channel with the capacity to broadcast separate strands on several platforms

The merger of the BBC News Channel and BBC World TV News has resulted in a unified channel that aims to cater to diverse audience segments. But the capacity is regularly used by the Channel’s producers (via “break-out teams”) to separate out news coverage. It means global audiences might still see one thing while UK audiences see something else. Separate news coverage can also be placed on the BBC News website and the iPlayer. It all means multiple opportunities for spokespeople to get on the air.


Audience figures

For the week ending June 26th, Rachel told us the BBC News Channel reached 7.5 million adults. Within the UK, 4.8 million viewers streamed the channel that week. The digital audience is being counted separately and can be considerable. During the loss of the Titan submersible, the BBC news website recorded more than 11 million hits in just one day, demonstrating that platform’s power to reach a big audience.


Challenges and opportunities for inclusion

The BBC News Channel continues to strive to ensure a diverse array of voices and faces appear as contributors. There’s a target of 50% female guests. And 20% of guests should come from an ethnic minority. There are specific sectors– including technology and military subjects– that see a real struggle to get female expertise. Bear this in mind when offering experts to potentially appear on air.

Though it has a significant international presence these days, there is still considerable demand for UK-based stories and experts.


Radio and TV news in combination

Nicky Campbell’s 5live phone-in is also broadcast on the new BBC News Channel between 9am and 11am. It’s an example of the ever-closer ties between the BBC’s radio and TV news coverage. The BBC News Channel does sometimes opt to switch away from Nicky’s phone-in if there is a particular separate event it wants to cover EG. a press-conference. But it’s evidence that an appearance on BBC Radio 5live can often now see you reach a TV audience too.


Five steps to get coverage on the BBC News Channel


  1. Identify relevant BBC contacts

Finding the right people to connect with at the BBC is crucial. There are now specialist teams, spread across the UK, focused on different topics. For example, teams are dedicated to education, health, climate, and technology. When reaching out, consider which team aligns with your expertise or the subject you wish to discuss.


  1. Stay agile and responsive

Producers at the BBC News Channel need to respond quickly to breaking news and emerging topics. As a contributor, it is essential to be agile and responsive, particularly when it comes to providing insights and expertise on current events. When relevant news stories arise, don’t hesitate to reach out to producers promptly. Remember the Channel may be about to divide up and a “break out” team may need voices for bespoke coverage on the iPlayer or BBC News website.


  1. Plan wisely for scheduled content

While being responsive to breaking news is crucial, there are also opportunities for planned content. For in-depth stories or features, sending a planning email a few days before a scheduled event can be beneficial. Focus on providing valuable insights and demonstrating your expertise on the subject matter. Remember that producers receive numerous emails, so be concise and make your pitch stand out. Less is more when it comes to sending these sorts of emails!


  1. Seek feedback and build relationships

After a media appearance, seeking feedback can be invaluable in improving future engagements. Producers appreciate individuals and organisations that seek to enhance their contributions continuously. Building positive relationships with producers and media teams can lead to further opportunities for exposure in the future.


  1. Leverage your academic or organisational expertise

The BBC values expert voices, especially from academia and charitable organisations. Universities and research institutions can offer valuable insights on various topics. Additionally, charities can provide unique perspectives on issues related to their focus areas. Don’t hesitate to present your organisation as an available resource for interviews and stories that align with your expertise.