BBC World Service English to unveil new programmes and services

BBC World Service English has announced it is significantly enhancing its content, with investment in original journalism; a richer range of programmes on science, arts and global debate; new podcasts and unique content to reach audiences on digital and social platforms.

This follows last week’s announcement of the BBC World Service’s biggest expansion since 1940s, a result of the funding boost announced by the UK Government last year. 

Mary Hockaday, Controller BBC World Service English, says:

“The BBC World Service is a trusted source of news and information for a huge audience around the world – 66m weekly to the English service – and now we have even more to offer, at a time of unprecedented global change.  This funding boost gives us the opportunity to enrich our schedule with a wider range of programmes that reflect the breadth of our listeners’ interests, from the big news stories and analysis to explorations in science, innovation, arts and culture. From Syria to the US presidency, from Nollywood to outer space – our audiences are curious about the world around them and we can offer a new wealth of programmes to respond to their interests and connect people in a global conversation. We’re also aiming to attract new and younger audiences, particularly on digital and social platforms.”


Our primary purpose is to provide accurate, independent news and good information to audiences around the world. We have a very strong array of news programmes. Investment allows us to add to the breadth of our journalism.

World Hacks, a weekly half hour programme and related digital content, aims to ‘meet the people fixing the world’. It has launched in November to foster a new strand of BBC journalism, which starts its storytelling with the idea that there are solutions to problems. Audiences tell us they are interested in these stories to complement the core news agenda which tends to focus on the urgent difficulties and problems facing the world. The series will track down and explore ideas with people trying to make things better, and explore whether they work and can be shared.

The debate programme World Questions takes democratic discussion around the world. It will develop into a monthly brand with lead presenter Jonathan Dimbleby hosting, a panel and live audience in key cities around the world.  The programme will travel to the heart of big stories and issues, offering unique opportunities for democratic engagement in challenging locations.

BBC World Service will build on the success of BBC Minute which currently supplies high-quality, lively news summaries to youth orientated music stations around the world and invest in  single subject editions covering areas like arts, health and technology. We will also start producing BBC Minute Video Minutes for existing and new partners which will capture the engaging tone of the audio. Sitting predominantly on websites and social pages they will reach untapped younger audiences.

In the spring, BBC World Service will strengthen its news briefing spine 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There will be more editions of The Newsroom to provide regular news briefings and original journalism day and night (including off-peak times in the UK) to bring unfolding news whenever and wherever it’s happening.

Arts, Culture and Science

Our audience have broad interests and BBC World Service English already offers a mixed speech network. This investment means we can further grow the range of our programmes, adding in particular to our science and arts offer. Our aim is to create new programmes which open up the worlds of art and science, showcase the best, respond to audience curiosity and take the programmes to where exciting things are happening. 

The Arts Hour will hit the road once a month and record in the world’s greatest cultural cities in front of an audience. With live music, comedy and rich panel conversation Arts Hour on Tour will offer a truly immersive experience which showcases and explores the best local culture and talent and the burning issues in culture.

A new weekly culture and arts strand, In The Studio, will meet some of the greatest names in the cultural world as it follows the creative process of musicians, writers, film-makers and artists as they make their work. It will launch this spring.

A new weekly podcast will cover the latest in the film industry, from Hollywood to Bollywood and Nollywood.

A new weekly series, CrowdScience, has launched this November to feed the appetite for science coverage among our audiences, especially younger people. Its starting point each week is a question from the audience about life, Earth and the universe and our reporters then travel the globe finding answers from scientists and engineers working at the frontiers of knowledge.

Digital content

BBC World Service is a radio and digital network. Audiences are downloading programmes and podcasts in growing numbers and short-form versions of our journalism and programmes are proving an excellent way to reach new audiences on digital and social platforms. New investment in this area will allow us to get more of our content to more people in a digital world. 

We are appointing the BBC’s first ever podcast editor, to develop new podcasts to meet growing audience interest in listening to new forms of audio in new ways. 

Increased investment in seven-day a week digital and social teams to produce engaging content across multiple platforms to meet the needs of the growing mobile and digital audience.

Innovations will include a distinctive short-form offer for World Service audio and bringing radio content to life through video, animation and infographics.


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