BBC Home
Explore the BBC
Low graphics|Accessibility help
newswatch banner
Last Updated: Monday, 15 November, 2004, 14:03 GMT
Radio News
By Stephen Mitchell
Head of Radio News

Radio News covers a huge spectrum - from local stations to 1Xtra - with a combined UK audience of 23 million listeners a week. Radio News head Stephen Mitchell explains the appeal and how they are adapting to the digital era.

James Naughtie and Tony Blair
James Naughtie interviews Tony Blair on the Today programme

How much coverage does Radio News provide and for what outlets?

Radio News produces between two and three hours of programming for every hour of the day. It is broadcast across seven UK radio networks and around the globe on the BBC World Service.

Radio News also produces material for BBC Scotland, BBC Wales and BBC Northern Ireland and for BBC local radio.

The UK radio newsroom provides a tailored round-the-clock news service to each of the five national radio networks. It produces six hours of output per day - around 200 separate inserts every day.

The flagship programme is the Six O'Clock News on Radio Four - the most comprehensive radio bulletin of the day.

How is Radio News adapting to the digital era and its audiences?

Radio news strives to make its output available on all sorts of digital platforms - streamed; on-demand; as part of the BBC News website's national and international offerings, hour by hour and archived; via Freeview and satellite.

Most of our output has associated webpages - and some have very strong sites, including Today on Radio 4; Five Live and Radio 1 Newsbeat and 1Xtra. World Service News and Current Affairs works closely now with BBC World and the BBC News website's World desk.

Our audiences, we like to think, are also keen on making digital connections. Our e-mail and text traffic grows year by year - and our audiences often make significant contributions to coverage as well as the debate and comment programmes we run.

Are more people accessing Radio News via the internet and their TVs?

Yes; 18.7 million adults (38% of the adult population) claim to have ever listened to the radio via non traditional platforms such as TV, the internet or the mobile phone.

What are the strengths of Radio News? What are its weaknesses?

Strengths first. Immodest maybe, but we have some very big audiences - globally and domestically.

We take pride in accuracy, impartiality, fairness and originality but we also seek to meet the news needs of the wide variety of our audiences, from 15 to 25-year-olds on R1, sports fans on 5 Live, opinion formers in the UK on R4 and around the world on the World Service.

We rely for much of our reporting strength on the reporters and correspondents of BBC Newsgathering, but also have a strong roster of dedicated reporters and presenters who, we hope, understand their subjects and our many and varied audiences - from 1Xtra to The World Tonight, from the Simon Mayo Show to Newshour.

Weaknesses? Well, we haven't quite cracked pictures, but some people like us for that!

How many people work for Radio News? Roughly how big is its budget?

We have just over 750 staff, spread mainly over three sites - Bush House, Yalding House and Television Centre.

They're a mixture of editors, producers, reporters and operational staff, supporting 24-hour working in all three buildings and serving seven different networks. Our budget is about 57m a year.

Radio studio microphone

Can you explain a bit more about the programmes you make?

Radio Four

Radio News makes Today, The World at One, PM, The World Tonight, Broadcasting House and The World This Weekend.

Today is Radio 4's flagship programme. It contains news, business, sport and analysis but its speciality is the agenda-setting forensic interviewing of public figures by John Humphrys and his fellow presenters.

The World at One is a lunchtime news round-up with analysis while PM provides an easy to understand mix of news and current affairs.

The World Tonight goes in deeper than the day's news - looking at the trends, issues and events which will really change the world.

Radio Five Live

Radio News provides most of the output on Five Live, with lively, accessible and up-to-the minute journalism for a younger and socially diverse audience.

The Breakfast programme has a more informal approach to the day's news than the Today programme, with a more domestic agenda.

The Phone In programme includes a single topic phone-in from 0900 to 1000 where listeners have their say on the issue of the day.
Stephen Mitchell factfile
Born and brought up in Leicestershire, Stephen studied politics and modern history at Manchester University
He joined the BBC in 1974, working on the Today programme before becoming a senior duty editor in Radio News
Key roles at the BBC include Editor of Radio Four's Six O'Clock News, Managing Editor of Radio News and Deputy Head of Radio News
Stephen became Head of Radio News in 1999

From 1300 to 1600, Simon Mayo ranges from news to in-depth interviews following the one-hour Midday News which offers a full round-up of all the latest stories.

On Drive, the pace is fast, with coverage of live events and breaking news as they happen.

In the evening and overnight for Five Live, Radio News also produces Matthew Bannister and Up All Night.

Newsbeat and 1Xtra

We also produce news targeted at the primary Radio One audience - 15 to 24-year-olds. For many listeners in this group, this is the only BBC News programming that they regularly hear or watch.

Radio News also provides the news service for 1Xtra - the BBC's new digital music station which targets young, black music listeners. TX Unlimited is the two-hour news and music programme - broadcast Monday to Friday at 5pm.


The Radio News "General News Service" provides a comprehensive service of national and international news to English local radio and the nations - reaching some 10 million people each week.

World Service

The World Service is the most highly respected international radio network, reaching a global audience of more than 150 million listeners.
Bush House - home of the World Service
Bush House in central London - home of the World Service

The backbone of the English language output is the hourly bulletin.

The World Service newsroom at Bush House, in central London, also provides news stories to the World Service language sections. This forms the basis of hundreds of bulletins in more than 40 languages every day.

Radio News is also responsible for Newshour, The World Today, which provides breakfast-time listening from East Asia to Europe, programmes targeted at Europe and the Americas and high-profile weekly current affairs programmes, such as Agenda and Assignment.

The people who work in this department are drawn from every continent - helping it to achieve the breadth of background and vision it needs to inform a truly World Service.


^^ back to top
BBC News frontpage | NewsWatch | Notes | Contact us | Profiles | History
BBC News Newswatch Friday 20:45 on BBC News 24 and Saturday 07:45 Breakfast