BBC Sounds announces brand new podcasts – but you have to be famous to host one

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Five new podcasts are announced by the BBC – but every one of them comes with a host who already has some profile.

An update! I’ve now been in contact with the BBC, and have happier news to report. Unlike some of the big commercial podcast companies, the corporation does indeed have a scheme running that’s actively looking for new podcast voices. This is all part of BBC Audio Labs, for which new applications open shortly, and successful applicants don’t just get to make their shows, but get marketing, social and PR support.

I’m leaving the original story here, but I want to acknowledge that I may have been a bit harsh towards the BBC here. I still wish it could do more, as you’d expect, but I’m thrilled it’s doing what many others aren’t.

Up front, just want to say: no slight to any of the people hosting the new collection of podcasts that BBC Sounds has just launched. I’m also not a BBC basher. I love the BBC, I love lots of its output.

However, its new press release comes with a line that reads at the top: ‘BBC Sounds launches a raft of exciting podcasts featuring a starry line-up of brilliant new presenting talent’.

It’s brilliant talent, certainly, but not new. Every single one of the new podcasts that the BBC has announced in its new line-up is hosted by somebody who already has some profile. They may be ‘new’ to presenting podcasts, but they already are known names, and – appreciating I have a vested interest – that feels like the podcast industry writ large at the moment.

Here’s an opportunity to showcase genuine new voices who people may not have heard. To release podcasts that offer those who’ve never been able to break in a chance to do so, and to give them a platform that they otherwise would stand little opportunity of getting. Then, to put the might of the BBC publicity machine behind them.

Instead, it feels like a closed shop, and I’ll mention the hosts because I have no problem with the players, it’s the game that’s the problem.

I bet the shows the BBC has announced will be great too. There’s Miss Me? With Lily Allen and Miquita Oliver, Off The Telly with Natalie Cassidy and Joanna Page, How To Be In The Spotlight with Rylan, History’s Youngest Heroes with Nicola Coughlan and Who Replaced Avril Lavigne? with the brilliant Joanne McNally (thrilled for her, too, and of the five new commissions here, she’s the person I think deserves the platform the most).

Not a single person there I hadn’t heard of before, although I appreciate that’s my perspective and may not be others.

I’ve been involved with the Independent Podcast Awards, which are returning for 2024, and one of the reasons that show exists in the first place is that those with commissioning budgets are ignoring so much of the untapped talent out there. That they’re hiring famous people, and pulling up the ladder as fast as they can behind them, so us independents have no chance of getting on the rung.

Again, I have a vested interest: I have a film podcast, and I’m a nobody. But I also have a bit of a platform, so if you’ve got this far and are interested in some other shows, might I recommend:

Sausage On A Fork

Verbal Diorama

Life After That Thing I Did

The Best Bits Podcast

You can find more on the new BBC commissions, here. To podcast commissioners with budgets out there, though: look beyond the list of famous names please. It’s on you to un-rig the game a bit.

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