BBC doing the business for audience that’s in the know

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The BBC is launching a half-hour weekday business programme called Business Today on News 24 this week, taking advantage of rival Sky News’s abolition of its specialised business unit.

The programme will be broadcast at 8.30pm each day with the aim of attracting the ‘movers and shakers’ of the business world, who would not be watching television earlier in the evening.

It is targeting business viewers rather than a general news audience and intends to draw its inspiration from the business pages of broadsheet newspapers, according to presenter Nils Blythe.

"This will be a programme for people interested in business. We will have regular commentators and we will also be able to draw on BBC reporters around the world," he said.

The BBC reckons it is an auspicious time to launch the programme, partly because Sky News has scrapped its specialist business unit to focus on live, continuous news output. Sky’s three half-hour daily business programmes will end from next month.

"We would have been competing with Sky’s business programme which went out at 7.30pm, but now we have the field pretty much to ourselves. It would have been nice to have something to measure ourselves against," said Blythe.

Tomorrow’s programme will feature an interview with Sir John Browne, chief executive of BP.

Business Today is not intended to be a direct competitor to specialist business channels like Bloomberg or CNBC. However, the BBC is touting the programme as evidence of its further commitment to improving its business coverage.

Greg Dyke, BBC director-general, apologised last autumn for the poor standard of business reporting at the corporation in the past and vowed things would improve.

Since then Dyke has appointed the BBC’s first business editor, Jeff Randall - former editor of Sunday Business and now a columnist for this paper, who will also be a regular commentator on Business Today.

There are also plans to launch an early morning business programme on BBC1 which would be broadcast on the BBC’s World television channel.

"There’s not the slightest doubt that better business coverage is one of Greg Dyke’s pet projects and for a lot of us that is welcome news. I used to work on Radio 4’s Today programme and the people who ran it were not naturally terribly interested in business," said Blythe.

There have been suggestions that the BBC wants to create a digital TV channel devoted to business, though the corporation denies it has any plans to do so.

Meanwhile, its business coverage is evolving. The Money Programme has changed schedule and format over the past year, becoming a single-subject programme broadcast on Wednesdays rather than Sundays.

It draws about 1.3 million viewers and the BBC claims the changes have resulted in a more female, slightly more up-market audience, though men still make up the overwhelming proportion of viewers.

Trouble at the Top, on BBC2, has scored a number of recent hits with its recent episode on British farmers moving to France capturing an audience of 2.8 million.

Working Lunch, the afternoon business programme, has seen its share of audience increase by 1% this year to 9%. Blood on the Carpet, meanwhile, has attracted an audience of 2.2 million and a share of over 10%. Back to the Floor gained an average audience of 1.9 million, or 9% share.

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