BBC World News launched 30 years ago today—March 11, 1991—as BBC World Service News with a 30-minute news bulletin anchored by Ed Mitchell.
The broadcast covered the demonstrations in Belgrade, then-U.S. Sec. of State James Baker arriving in Israel hours after troops shot down six Arab gunmen, OPEC oil ministers meeting for the first time since the Gulf War, as well as a story about refugee children of Albania.
This was the first bulletin, but it would be far from the last.
Eight months later, WSTV became a 24-hour news operation and launched in Asia, the start of its rapid growth which would eventually see it become available in more than 200 countries and territories.
In 1995, it re-launched as BBC World before changing its name to BBC World News in 2008 and moving to a new 24-hour multi-platform building dubbed ‘the world’s news room’ in 2013.
Fast forward to 2021, BBC World News is the BBC’s largest television service operating in more than 200 countries and territories, offering breaking news, a broad range of current affairs, sport and lifestyle programming, bolstered by 4,000+ journalists across the world, and 60 international bureaus in 77 cities.
Needless to say, the global news division is a significant and pivotal component of the BBC.
“Outside of the UK, BBC Global News forms one of the pillars of the BBC’s journalistic output, alongside World Service radio and our digital home, BBC.com,” BBC CEO of Global News David Weiland tells TVNewser. “When our new DG [Director-General] Tim Davie started in September, he outlined his priorities, which included renewing our commitment to impartiality, focusing on unique, high-impact content and building commercial income. BBC World News plays a crucial role in achieving each of those goals and is therefore a hugely important part of the BBC’s future.”
BBC World News’ popularity continues to grow. According to the BBC Global Audience Measure (GAM) for 2020, total global reach of BBC News up 13% year on year in 2020 to 438.4 million people a week – the highest number ever. 49.5 million people consume BBC News in the U.S. every week, a +31% year-on-year increase.
BBC has offerings on Facebook Watch, Instagram, and its website BBC.com. However, Weiland stresses that linear TV is still a go-to avenue for global news consumers.
“We saw this in our numbers, with spikes in viewership during the numerous news of events of 2020—U.S. elections, racial justice and the pandemic,” said Weiland.
Then, there’s the subject of brand trust.
The 2020 Reuters Digital News Report found the BBC to be the most trusted news brand in the United States. A full 56% of U.S. respondents rated the BBC as “trustworthy,” which the study counts as a trust rating of six to ten points out of ten, putting BBC News No. 2 only to “local television news,” and ahead of all major US news brands.
“2020 showed us that now more than ever before, what happens around the world matters more to what happens to us at home,” added BBC Global News evp marketing, distribution and business development Chris Davies. “As we reach our 30 year anniversary, BBC World News will continue to report on the big news stories happening from across the globe, and explain why they matter to you.”