With a weeks’ worth of episodes of Beyond Today aired, it seems now is a good time to take a look at it and examine where it succeeds, and where fails
The podcast, created by the BBC, is aimed at improving the BBC’s reach and relationship with younger audiences, as those in their twenties predominantly get their information from live news feeds and social media. This, however, doesn’t lend itself to deep dives into a topic, nor into following the aftermath of a story. This seems to be the approach Beyond Today wishes to take.
In the first five episodes, we get treated to an explanation of the country’s financial situation in light of Budget Day and the purported ‘end of austerity’ the government has declared. This, along with a longer look at the murder of an Iraqi Instagram Star at the end of September, and an introspective look what the role of journalists is in this era of democratised news gives listeners a good idea of what the aim of this show is there to do. Cut down on the noise of the news.
As topics to cover in their first week, they seem well chosen. Instagram is undisputedly a young person’s tool, and this same audience are in general lacking in their understanding of national issues such as the Budget, Deficit, and the National Debt. I know I was prior to a few months of study last year, and in general I would consider myself quite well informed.
But while the topics and the information in each of the episodes are well thought out, some of the more overt attempts to engage with ‘the youth’ are rather cringe-worthy. I feel the need to say ‘the youth’ in such a tone as that is the way it feels like the BBC would be describing them.
“How do we get The Youth on board?” Says one BBC Executive.
“Oh, I hear they like those podcast things,” says another while flicking through Hello magazine for next years Top Gear presenters. “Let’s start one explaining why what the proper news programme says is important, maybe add a few jokes too? I think they like those.”
That was perhaps a tad unfair, as in concept the show is good. In execution as well, the show is good but that is to be expected from the BBC. No, it is in some of the more forced aspects, such as jokes about the producer singing Taxman by The Beatles in the shower, which bring the show down in my opinion.
I spoke to Mathew Price, one of the show’s hosts and creators, about what he wants from this show.
“When I was in my twenties I would tune into radio as the news was happening, I think two things have happened since then. One is which the way a lot of news organizations cover the news has become much more rolling, much more noisy, and the second thing that happened is that we are now not listening in a linear fashion, we’re listening in a digital fashion. We expect to be able to get our news analysis when we want it, not when a schedule dictates it.”
Episode 1 of #BeyondToday about to drop – if the tech does its job! Big moment for Mr Editor @johneshields as he finally gets his singing out to a wider audience @BBCSounds @BBCr4today pic.twitter.com/RzypBcwYmg
— Matthew Price (@BBCMatthewPrice) October 29, 2018
Mathew Price was a host of Newsround for CBBC approximately twenty years ago, giving this show the odd feature of being aimed at the exact same people he explained the news to all those years ago.
“I’m kind of excited to see if that plays out, it was one of the things we talked about during the piloting, but wouldn’t it be interesting if people who watched Newsround listened to this new show. I kind of think it would be quite fun if there are people who saw me on Newsround all those years ago and now are like Oh brilliant there’s a podcast with him that’ll be fun.”
Beyond Today is published to BBC Sounds every week day at around 5pm, and I would really recommend having a listen to a couple of episodes.