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BBC warns of ‘urgent challenge’ in funding

UK public broadcaster BBC has called for “swift and imaginative” thinking from the industry to compete with the rise of streamers, admitting it faces an “urgent challenge” to develop new ways to support its income.

David Clementi

The corporation, unveiling its annual plan for 2019/20 today in London, outlined strategies to improve its creativity and expand its iPlayer uptake among young people, while also building trust in its news reporting and making the organisation a better place to work.

But the organisation said it also faced unprecedented challenges to compete with streamers and broadcast competitors.

BBC chairman David Clementi said it was vital that the broadcaster, through its regulator Ofcom, was able to improve its on-demand iPlayer service, which it is hoped will be able to offer box-set content and programmes for 12 months rather than just one.

“The board is clear that every month that goes by without a response to the seismic shifts in the media market inhibits the BBC’s ability to serve younger and digital audiences properly as audiences and markets continue to change, and undermines both public service broadcasting and the UK’s creative economy,” Clementi said.

“We will need swift and imaginative thinking from everyone in the industry,” he added, in the latest comments from the broadcaster supporting iPlayer innovation in recent months.

UK indie trade body Pact has previously expressed concern over the plans, which it says would impact producers.

The BBC said it wanted to attract younger viewers via its on-demand services, adding that it wanted to turn viewers’ “monthly habit” into a weekly one.

The pubcaster also said it would be considering how, or indeed if, it would cover the cost of licence fees for the over-75s, adding that its funding had fallen by 18% in real terms since 2010.

In comparison, it said commercial rival ITV had seen its income grow by 31% while pay TV operator Sky had almost doubled its income.

Meanwhile, Amazon and Netflix have driven “super-inflation” of drama and comedy over recent years, the broadcaster said, with “this effect moving into other key areas of our output, such as factual programming.”

It added: “In this context, the BBC’s urgent challenge is to develop new ways to support our income so that we can keep pace with the market around us, as well as successfully safeguard British content and Britain’s creative track record.

“The creative and commercial success of BBC Studios will be critical. Coproductions with the very best global partners are already a big part of BBC commissioning – and series like Dynasties are able to attract investment from across the world. That is a model we will continue to pursue where it delivers for audiences.

“BBC Studios is also making rapid progress in winning new commissions from broadcasters across the world, including, of course, the BBC.”

Tony Hall, director general of the BBC, added: “All broadcasters face the challenges of a fast-changing media landscape. The BBC can meet those challenges and succeed in the future, just as we have succeeded in the past.

“We will achieve success by continuing to place British creativity at the heart of our programme making. Our ambition is to deliver the very best, most distinctive, British content of any broadcaster.”


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