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BBC News is a British state-sponsored news organization and the world’s largest broadcast news operation.

BBC News is a division of the BBC, or British Broadcasting Corp., the world’s largest media organization and oldest national public broadcaster. The BBC is funded largely by revenue from British television licenses. The BBC was reported in 2014 to be considering scrapping its license system, though it denied the report. Its executives later said it was open to modernizing the license fee.

BBC News has one of the most widespread newsgathering operations in the world and has been called one of its best, as well. (It is sometimes known by the affectionate nickname “The Beeb.”) The news division had about 8,400 total staffers in 2014, when it announced it would cut about 220 positions. It has developed a reputation particularly for its foreign reporting.

BBC News Online

Traditionally, the BBC has distributed news primarily over radio and television, though its website, launched in 1997, is the largest news site in the United Kingdom. The BBC also launched a U.S. news site in 2010. In 2014, it announced widespread cuts, with the savings to be reinvested into its digital operation.

The BBC has been a pioneer among mainstream media outlets in several digital-news concepts, including citizen journalism and user-generated content, on-demand video players, topic pages, open copyright licensing, and open-source software integration. It has also launched video channels on Reddit and Instagram and used chat apps to report on news outside of the U.K.

In 2013, the BBC announced plans to turn its video-on-demand service, the BBC iPlayer, into essentially a full network of the broadcaster. It relaunched the iPlayer in 2014. It also produces a short-form video series to appear in sponsored Twitter streams.

The BBC launched the Digital Media Initiative in 2008 to develop an in-house desktop-based production tool for video and audio recording and editing. It scrapped the plan in 2013 after spending £98 million on it, calling it a failure.

The BBC has been criticized for being reluctant to link to other sites, but it has since made aggregating and linking a priority. The broadcaster issued new linking guidelines in September 2010, aiming to double its number of outbound links by 2013. The BBC has also been cautious about using social media, though BBC Global News director Peter Horrocks urged the organization’s journalists to embrace social media in early 2010. In 2012, it issued social media guidelines urging its journalists to file breaking news to its internal system at the same time as or before they posted it in Twitter.

The BBC launched a native advertising program in 2013.

BBC expansion

The BBC is obligated by remit to broadcast in the public interest, and it has been criticized for expanding too broadly and attempting to compete with Britain’s private news organizations.

The BBC has responded to those concerns by periodically cutting back on its media offerings. In 2004, the BBC shut down some of its Internet operations (a move that was criticized by one of its rivals, The Guardian). In 2008, the BBC canceled plans to develop a network of local news sites out of concern for private local news organizations.

In 2010, the BBC revealed plans to cut its online budget by a quarter and web pages by half as part of an upcoming overhaul of its website. In January 2011, the BBC cut 360 staff members as part of that reduction.

The BBC announced in February 2010 that it would begin developing apps for the iPhone and other mobile devices, though U.K. newspaper publishers protested that the expansion hindered their ability to compete in mobile markets. The apps were approved and released in July 2010. By June 2011, the BBC reported that 10 million of its apps had been downloaded worldwide.

Sexual abuse scandal

In late 2012, two parallel sexual abuse scandals led to the resignation of the BBC’s director general, George Entwistle, and leaves of absences by its top two news executives. In the first, an investigation by the BBC News program Newsnight into the BBC’s handling of sexual abuse allegations against former BBC host Jimmy Savile was dropped. In the second, about a month after the Savile scandal erupted, Newsnight falsely accused a former British politician of sexual abuse.

The BBC reached a settlement with the politician, and it also faced numerous lawsuits in the Savile case. The British communication regulator Ofcom also opened an investigation into Newsnight in the wake of the scandals.

The BBC’s internally commissioned review faulted the network for its handling of the situation and recommended a move away from the network’s insular culture.

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Primary author: Mark Coddington. Main text last updated: July 17, 2014.
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