BBC Sees Gold In Podcasts: And Publishers Don't Like The Competition

Podcast producers face strong competition for advertising dollars. And those in the UK will soon have an additional rival: the almighty BBC.  

The BBC announced in March that it would start selling “adverts” on sites such as Apple and Spotify. This has alarmed publishers, 20 of whom sent a letter protesting the plan to Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer last week. They included broadcasters ITV and Sky, radio giants Bauer and Global, and podcast producer Goalhanger, according to a story published by the BBC.  

"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 senders wrote. 

"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." 



However, BBC Sounds listeners would still hear the same audio content without ads—another idea that the publishers dislike. 

"Forcing users to migrate to BBC Sounds if they want to hear content ad-free also has the impact of putting BBC Sounds at a distinct advantage as a platform, having an unfair competitive advantage when it comes to competition between listening platforms,"they wrote. "These changes are highly likely to have a significant adverse impact on fair and effective competition in the UK podcast market."

The publishers also want the media regulator Ofcom to review the UK audio and podcast market.

According to BBC, a spokesperson for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport says, "The BBC has a responsibility under the Charter to avoid adverse impacts on the wider market. It is up to Ofcom to hold the BBC to account in meeting its obligations.”

The spokesperson adds, "In the recent Mid-Term Review, we recommended that the BBC take steps to engage more effectively with competitors and fulfill its obligation to work collaboratively."

In another development, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has issued a new guidance on podcast advertising that will take effect after a three-month grace period on August 16.  

CAP research shows that listeners want a clear label, such as “paid-for advertisement” or “sponsored” at the start of ads, according to ASA and CAP News. 

It was found that phrases like ‘partnered with’ or ‘friend of the show’ had potential to be confusing.

The guidance states that there has to be a “clear delineation” between advertising and editorial content. 

“Listeners shouldn’t have to play detective in working out what is an ad and what isn’t,“ says Beth Erwin, project lead. “By being upfront and clear about when an ad appears, podcasters can continue to build the connection with their audience and avoid eroding the trust and authenticity they’ve spent time and effort building.”


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