BBC staff are staging a revolt against plans to cash in on the global podcast boom by marketing Radio 4 programs to overseas listeners.
The company is facing internal resistance to a reshuffle of its audio division that aims to reap profits from audio output by handing over control to BBC Studios, its trading arm.
This means that programs such as Woman’s Hour and In Our Time could be presented as podcasts with advertisements, or sold to foreign broadcasters, as is the case with shows such as Doctor Who.
While the BBC has produced a series of popular podcasts in recent years, it has missed out on the riches its commercial rivals enjoy thanks to the explosive growth of the nearly £10billion global podcast industry.
Such a change could help the BBC retain stars by giving it the freedom to pay higher salaries, while keeping presenters’ salaries out of the critical eye of the media and the public.
The BBC has been hit with defections from top talent such as Emily Maitlis and Jon Sopel, leading to the loss of popular shows including the Peter Crouch podcast.
However, the review fueled concerns within Broadcasting House that the shows’ editorial independence could be compromised by the move.
A spokesperson for the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) said union members at the company were appalled by the plans.
The union said: “Many of them join the BBC because they believe in public service broadcasting and its values and ethics which enable them to make editorial decisions without interference from personal prejudices and tycoon weaknesses. media, commercial pressure to appease shareholders or government interference.
“They believe their editorial independence would be compromised if they were placed in a commercial body such as BBC Studios if the review went that route.”
The move is the latest attempt by Mr Davie, the former boss of BBC Studios, to shore up the company’s dwindling license fee income by boosting commercial returns.
BBC Studios, which sells its hit shows such as Doctor Who to overseas broadcasters and co-funds programs with US streamers, made a record profit of £226million last year.
Mr Davie announced last year that he wanted to increase the commercial arm’s financial return by 30% to £1.5bn over the next five years.
The BBC is being forced to find new ways to make money to counter the rising cost of producing shows and the continued erosion of its £3.2billion annual revenue.
The BBC’s children’s arm and its TV production business have already moved to BBC Studios, run by former Shine and Harper Collins manager Tom Fussell.
Under the voice radio plans, the majority of programming except the Today, World at One, PM and The World Tonight program would fall under Studio’s control.
The NUJ believes this will be the first step towards a broader overhaul that will see music programs integrated into the commercial arm.
Opposing the plans, the NUJ called for an alternative model that would separate production and editorial from commercial.
A poll of NUJ members working in the audio arm of the BBC found that 97.5% supported keeping the operation within the company’s public service.
A BBC spokesperson said: “We have previously announced that we will be reviewing BBC audio production to ensure we continue to serve our audiences, retain top talent and increase value for royalty payers. No decision has been made.”