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‘Disastrous impact’ if BBC allowed to run ads on podcasts

The BBC’s plans to run adverts on its podcasts would have a “disastrous impact” on the UK’s media market, businesses have warned.

The broadcaster shared plans to run advertising on its podcasts and on-demand audio that are played on third-party platforms like Spotify in March.

A group of 20 media businesses – including Sky – have now signed an open letter addressed to Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer, saying the move could set “a dangerous precedent”.

In the letter, they say: “The BBC has vast funds to create content for its audiences and is not driven by commercial success, but instead by a mandate to act in the public interest, to inform, educate and entertain.

“The impact of it extracting audio advertising funds from the nascent UK podcasting market would be disastrous, especially for the numerous small independent podcast producers.”

Other signatories include ITV, Channel 4, News UK, DMG Media, Reach plc and Goalhanger Podcasts – which was co-founded by BBC presenter Gary Lineker and produces shows such as The Rest Is Politics and The Rest Is History.

In its annual plan, BBC Studios said “adverts are the norm” on third-party platforms, and added the plans are intended to “generate more revenue to support the BBC, licence fee payers our suppliers and rights holders”.

Last week, Conservative MP Andy Carter said in the House of Commons that those who do not use BBC Sounds would “in effect be paying twice” under the plans.

He said: “The BBC is unfairly forcing licence fee payers to pick between ad-free listening on BBC Sounds or their preferred podcast platform.

“Listeners should be entitled to access BBC audio content, such as Desert Island Discs, via whatever means they choose.”

In a statement to Sky News, the BBC said: “The BBC is exploring the opportunity to introduce some adverts on selected non-News podcasts on commercial platforms with the aim of delivering increased value to licence fee payers, our suppliers and our rightsholders.

“There are no plans to introduce adverts on the BBC’s own audio platforms. The proposals are subject to an ongoing regulatory assessment and nothing has been confirmed. We will continue to engage with the industry as we shape our plans.”

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