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Blog Post

What’s the Difference Between the BBC and Commercial Radio Stations?


By Claire Burgess


You’re sitting there deciding who’s going to take this story. Is it BBC? Is it commercial? Well before you go full steam ahead, it’s wise to think about how your story will fit with each medium.

There’s no point sending a generic story to all your contacts, hoping something will come back from the ‘mail out’.   Of course you might be lucky and a few hits may come back this way – but we don’t recommend this as a strategy.    Some you want and maybe some you (shhh) may not. But the trick is to curtail your story, pick out the best one liners and push what you think a particular station will like.

Here’s why it’s important to know the difference between the BBC and large or small commercial stations.


Large Commercial Stations

Large commercial stations typically reach the largest audience. A single pre-recorded interview can kill many birds with one stone, as it will often be syndicated across a number of stations and many areas.

Normally the interviews are edited down into sound bites, meaning the radio stations can select a short clip from a longer interview. The downside, however, is that the branding may be edited out too.

Larger stations favour stories with celebrities and will jump on a story if you have a good spokesperson. Sometimes a good story can fall by the wayside because the spokesperson is not a household name.


BBC Stations

One major difference between commercial and BBC stations is that the BBC is much stricter when it comes to brand mentions. BBCs are only allowed one brand mention during the course of an interview and they preferably need the spokesperson to be strategic, and to naturally incorporate the brand name into the story. It is likely that a guest will be cut off if a brand is mentioned more than a couple of times.

BBCs tend to have an older audience reach which may be better for brands targeting this market. BBC mid-mornings often do live chats which are great for brand mentions and you get much more air time than you do with a pre-recorded clip.    Clients often value a BBC interview above other opportunities, due to the quality of the chat with experienced broadcasters and the sound reputation that the BBC clearly has.

When targeting stories for BBC stations, it is important to curtail your stories to make sure they meet the right tone for certain BBC time slots. BBC Breakfast slots tend to be harder news stories, whilst mid-mornings tend to be more of a casual chat. Some stations have specific themes to their shows, such as BBC London mid-morning which only features stories on art, culture and architecture and BBC Jersey which has a music session from 9-12. Therefore, it is best to always take note of this, as could come in handy when you have an appropriate story.


The importance of smaller commercial stations

Smaller stations tend to do longer interviews which are more in-depth and cover more of the research. They ask the interviewee where they can go for more information, which allows the brand to make the audience aware of their website, directly driving traffic to the right area.

Smaller stations are keen to please- providing a good chat, friendly environment and a pleasure for the guest to speak to, this is not always the case but more often than not is how it is. It’s great to build relationships with smaller stations, as this can come in handy with tougher stories that are harder to sell in.


BBC and commercial stations all have their place when it comes to covering a story. There are always many routes to take when trying to get your story on the air waves, whether that is commercial stations or the BBC. Journalists come in many different shapes and sizes and it is always best to try multiple routes when trying to get your story covered.

At Shout! for any typical radio day we always try to exceed but aim to achieve 10-12 interview opportunities. Our best schedules include a mixture of BBC, commercials and TV and look somewhat like 1-2 national, 6-7 BBC’s, 3 big commercials and 3-4 smaller commercials.


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