In a speech to the RTS (Royal Television Society) London Conference on Tuesday 18th September 2018, the DG, Tony Hall outlined the threat of video streaming services to the UK public broadcasting community. He believes that the UK Media industry is trying to compete against global media giants ‘with one hand tied behind its back’. This is because these companies are not subjected to hardly any of the broadcasting regulations which apply to the domestic market with its incumbent costs and this must change. UK public service broadcasters have reduced spending on content by about £1bn since 2004 and the shortfall has not been met by video streaming companies. Current estimates are that Netflix and Amazon only spend £150 million a year on original new UK content.
‘The Big Shift’ is the DG’s term to define the rapid changes overtaking the industry. The increased pace of the technological revolution has driven audience viewing habits and market scale. This was given some perspective when he stated that ‘Netflix is now roughly the same size as Channel 4 and close to the size of BBC television and iPlayer together’. Tony Hall sees the threat as both an opportunity and a challenge and outlined five key areas where work will be accelerated:-
1. More money spent on high quality new content
2. Re-inventing services – BBC website to be re-shaped. Transform BBC iPlayer to a destination service, not just catch-up
3. Invest more in children and young adults. Already an extra £34m has been invested in new content for children.
4. Help to counter threats to global democracy. Challenging fake news and dis-information.
5. BBC to spend more outside London. This will help to truly reflect the whole of the UK in our output. This will mean more money
spent around England and the Nations and mean more staff will be located outside London.
Whilst these aims are ambitious, Tony Hall does not believe they can be delivered within existing resources. Whilst the BBC continues to deliver fantastic value at 8p per household versus 17p for video-on-demand and 35p for pay tv service, he hinted that the payment of the license fee for over-75s may be a casualty when the current arrangement ends in 2020.
In his conclusion, he believes that whilst the BBC will carry on with efficiencies and savings he believes that ‘Britain also needs to do more to support the broader PSB ecology.’ He believes that we can compete in our own way with global media giants and ‘Scale is not everything. Smaller can be beautiful.’ and ended by encouraging everyone to emulate Sir Francis Drake against the Spanish Armada by being ‘Agile, creative, bold, taking risks, backing talent and passionate for what we believe in.’
The full text of Tony Hall’s speech can be accessed @ https://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/speeches/2018/tony-hall-rts