Sunday, July 19, 2015

Might as well...

We have to wait to September for the BBC to unveil its vision of Auntie's future beyond 2016. I presume the bones of the strategy are in the can. The BBC Trust held its last meeting before the summer holidays on 14/15 July (we don't get the minutes until October) and its next full session is not until 23/24 September.

So, somewhere in edit and graphic suites, the value proposition of what you can do with flat funding is being given some polish. Not too much, of course - probably the touchstone is Waitrose Essentials.

We have some clues from James Purnell, the former Labour Culture Secretary pitted against the current Tory, John Whittingdale. They come from his interview with the Telegraph. " I really rate John. He is extremely knowledgeable about the industry. We are looking forward to negotiating with him."

There'll be a call for regulated public service access, not necessarily live, to big sporting events beyond the 'Crown Jewels'. “At the moment we would still say we have got a very healthy portfolio of sports rights. One of the important things for charter review is to think about how we preserve that. We need that balance between exposure so that you get the next generation of fans but also the revenue and the very professional coverage that you get from subscription providers. That’s something that needs to be protected through regulation.”

There'll be a difficult piece of work attempting to define where and why the BBC will run websites beyond iPlayer, BBC3, news, weather and basic sport in the UK. The daftness here is that BBC Worldwide is one expansion driver. It's been winning funding through irritating ad pop-ups around the world for extra content - which the BBC is likely, under the assault from newspapers, to keep away from the eyes of people logging on in the UK.   and, quietly, as pointed out in the esteemed James Cridland's comment below, this content is becoming available in the UK.

James Purnell talks about "differentiating" the website offering from commercial competitors. "We want to have a really good debate with newspapers about how we can be a resource for the whole of the sector and how what we can do can be distinctive and complementary.” This apparently might mean more free video content for newspaper sites to use, and a long-needed commitment to pay local paper reporters who get to a good story first.

Expect a big chunk on civic debate wider than daily party politics. “By having an institution like the BBC you can talk about all the difficult things that countries have to face up to, the difficult issues, resolve that through debate rather than government diktat." This is sensitive stuff, arguing that the BBC provides opportunities for social cohesion and understanding, at a time when it feels like tiny but persistent pockets of support for violent extremism keep popping up in school playgrounds, college canteens, online communities and quiet, anonymous streets.

For BBC insiders, the interesting element will be to see if Lord Hall, Purnell and McKinsey can make any meaningful inroads on the BBC baronies. Historically, there's been little major movement in the shares of income between tv, radio and online since John Birt left. Each divisional director seeks to grow their spend year-on-year, and only accepts cuts if there are cuts all round. All attempts are genuine zero-budgeting are shaken off.  Arguments about funding for orchestras, Newsnight, Homes Under The Hammer, Radio 2 (v 6Music, say), comedy development, star contracts, end bootlessly. Will Tone be tough this time ?


  1. As a small correction - the extra online content that BBC Worldwide makes for international audiences was, quietly, opened up to us UK folk a few months ago. The amusingly entitled is just one example of it - complete with an explanatory banner.

    Might also be worthwhile mentioning that I have just spent two days in Berlin, where the hotel had BBC World News on its system. After having it on in the background for a few hours, I can report that it contained not one paid-for advertisement. (And it is *much* better than it used to be).

    1. Well spotted - will correct the body of the post and explore further....


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