Broadcasting since 1973 on BBC Radio 1, Newsbeat promises its younger listeners all the news they need to know from the UK and around the world. The energetic presenters ensure complex issues remain accessible to the target audience through their informal mode of address, interactive games, and audience participation, but can this traditional format continue to compete against podcasts and streaming apps?
If you are preparing for the AQA A-Level Media Studies exam, you should analyse at least two episodes in terms of media industries and audiences. Consideration of the programme’s social and cultural context is also essential.
The BBC is the largest public service broadcaster in the UK. According to the regulator, Ofcom, PSBs are tasked with “delivering impartial and trusted news, UK-originated programmes and distinctive content”. The BBC’s mission is outlined in its charter. The corporation has to provide “impartial, high-quality and distinctive output and services which inform, educate and entertain”. Newsbeat certainly satisfies these requirements with its focus on current affairs.
Accurate, impartial and independent news should be placed at the heart of daytime output.The BBC Trust and Radio 1
There is also a need to be representative of the UK’s diverse population. That is why the BBC continue to shift resources out of London to other parts of the country. Newsbeat, for example, will be presented from a new centre of excellence in Birmingham.
However, the BBC is often accused of political bias because it seems to reinforce a more liberal ideology. There have been plenty of commentators and government ministers who have called for the institution to be defunded and forced into the private sector to compete against subscription services and other channels which rely on advertising revenues. These critics question why the public should pay a licence fee when we spend most of our time online.
Despite these concerns, the BBC remains a trusted source around the world for news, especially in an era of fake news and clickbait journalism. This Science Daily article on news media and the rise of online disinformation explores these issues in detail.
For more information, the BBC academy published an article on everything you need to know about the public broadcaster. The section on their vision and the fascinating infographics are definitely worth reading.
The main fifteen-minute Newsbeat programmes are transmitted live over digital audio broadcast (DAB) frequencies at 12:45 and 17:45 during most weekdays. You can listen to the latest stories, entertainment gossip and sport headlines by tuning into Radio 1, 1Xtra and the Asian Network. This simultaneous transmission is known as a simulcast. There are also shorter bulletins broadcast throughout the day, usually at thirty-minute intervals.
Of course, you can hear the show on Newsbeat online. You just need to sign in with your BBC account. This enables the corporation to offer you personalised suggestions based on your BBC Sounds history. Importantly, they also share your personal data with TV Licensing to make sure you are paying your hypothecated tax.
Once you are logged in to streaming service, you can access episodes from the previous thirty days. You can even download and share media through the BBC Sounds app on any smart device, including your mobile phone or in-car software.
The producers offer a range of ways to listen to the show because they want to connect with a larger audience, improve their ratings and secure the viability of the format. If you want to know more about radio stations and their market share, you should visit our guide to how we measure the audience.
In terms of demographics, the BBC Trust claims Radio 1 targets people who are aged 15-29. However, RAJAR suggests the average listener is actually 30:
Although this performance analysis is quite old, the figure has remained stable since 2014. If you look at the more recent data from YouGov, Radio 1 is well-known and quite popular with older groups:
Codes and Conventions
A short burst of music with a fading bassline signals the start of the programme.
Known simply as the intro, the newsreader immediately introduces the episode to the audience. There might be a voice ident where the presenter mentions the name of the broadcast and the current time: “This is Newsbeat at 3.45pm”. The intro could be in the form of a bulletin – a list of the main stories which will be featured in the broadcast.
The newsreader will then open the top story by outlining some of the key facts and figures. Expect the message to be supported by some pre-recorded clips of interviews and commentary. Cutting quickly between quickly between these clips and the newsreader’s script creates an intensity which is supposed to appeal to the target audience. This introduction to a correspondent’s report in known as the cue.
Depending on the story, the report might begin with a clip of actuality (material recorded on location), a clever soundbite from a contributor, vox pops, expert opinion, or relevant music. If the news story is developing, the broadcast will cut to the reporter on the scene for more immediate information and live updates. This called the live cross.
Back in the studio, the newsreader might ask the correspondent questions about the story. This technique is called the two way. There might also be an interview with a specialist in the studio about the specific subject.
Finally, the wrap. The newsreader draws the report to a conclusion and then a stinger indicates the transition into the next section of the programme.
Newsbeat ends with the presenter’s sign-off which is known simply as the outro.
According to Statista, Radio 1 reached just under 9 million listeners every week in the first quarter of 2020. Despite facing tough competition from other platforms, such as television, streaming services and podcasts, radio shows continue to attract a mass audience.
Newsbeat had to compete against traditional print media and the conventions of roll news channels, but mobile-first audiences are now learning about important events through what is trending on their social networks and notifications of breaking news flashing on their screens.
The Newsbeat producers responded to this challenge by serving content on their website, YouTube channel, Twitter account and Instagram profile. Taking a multi-platform approach ensures the product remains relevant to its audience.
Newsbeat delivers its reports and stories with a very distinct style. The producers hope to appeal to their listeners by framing the content through an informal tone, quick overviews, upbeat links, and audience participation. However, we may not interpret the message in the way the producers originally intended.
Stuart Hall argued producers encoded meaning and values into their texts which was then decoded by the audience, but our reactions are shaped by our individual frameworks of knowledge. You should also consider the different modes of consumption, especially the ways we might listen to the radio.
Hall’s encoding / decoding model of communication offers three hypothetical positions – the dominant, oppositional, and negotiated readings.
The Newsbeat producers hope their short-form news stories will engage their audience and keep them up to date about the latest events around the world. This is the preferred reading. Some listeners might appreciate the snackable content but will be then turn to other sources for the stories behind the headlines. This could be considered a negotiated reading. Other listeners will simply reject the encoded message and construct their own meanings. Perhaps the news stories are irrelevant to their own situations. They might even tune into another station if they just want to hear music.
There are many factors which might influence our position to the programme, such as age, values and ideology, geography and even our mood. Importantly, we don’t always react in the way the producers intended.
- To what extent can regulators shape the output of media texts? Refer to the Close Study Product Newsbeat to support your answer.
- How convincing are the arguments for and against the regulation of radio broadcasts? In your answer, you should refer to your Close Study Product.
- Explain why producers of radio programmes are using new digital technologies to distribute their texts.
- “Media audiences always respond to media products in the way that producers intended.” Referring to the Close Study Product Newsbeat, to what extent do you agree with this statement?
- It has been argued social and cultural contexts influence how audiences respond to radio broadcasts. How far do you agree with this statement?
- Explain the influence of economic factors on the production and content of radio broadcasts.
- To what extent does Newsbeat meet the requirements of its public service broadcasting remit?
- Explain how Newsbeat targets a youth audience through the use of new technologies.
Newsbeat on Twitter
This is the official account with an impressive 150k followers.Tweets by BBCNewsbeat