The BBC is to be transformed into a delivery platform for the whole of the UK’s creative and cultural sectors under ambitious plans unveiled by Director General Tony Hall.
Speaking at the Science Museum on Monday morning, Lord Hall announced the BBC would work with the UK’s museums and arts institutions to bring more of their content, exhibits and output to viewers.
He also said the broadcaster would work harder in future to share its content with rivals, including by establishing a pool of reporters to cover local councils and courts and making their output available to local news outlets.
And he set out plans to use the BBC’s popular iPlayer service as the backbone to a new “gateway…to British creativity” which showcased nation’s “cultural crown jewels” by bringing together drama series from all broadcasters and producers.
Hall suggested such a move would help ensure “original British content” remains visible in a media world increasingly dominated by US-owned broadcasters and platforms.
Growing numbers of British production companies are owned by US parent companies and the BBC and other UK broadcasters are increasingly having to compete against low-cost on demand services such as Netflix and Amazon’s Instant Prime Video.
Hall said this competition meant the BBC’s relative size in the global media sector would diminish in the years ahead and implied that only through co-operation could the BBC and other UK outlets continue to remain relevant.
Addressing concerns about BBC News’ failure to tackle the challenges posed by the UK’s devolution settlement, Hall admitted the corporation had to acknowledge that some stories were no longer relevant to large parts of the audience and reshape its news services to reflect different governmental responsibilities in each nation and region.
But while Hall’s speech offered an optimistic and ambitious vision for the BBC’s future, his audience heard that the challenges ahead meant it would be necessary to take “very difficult choices” and “close or reduce some services” to help pay for the necessary changes.
Although today’s speech contained no specific proposals, it’s been reported that BBC bosses are considering closing down BBC Four and using its budget to help boost the quality of drama on BBC One.
Outside the UK, Lord Hall said the BBC should move to counter the state-sponsored news services operated by Al-Jazeera, China Central Television and Russia Today by expanding the World Service and provide a voice to international viewers which reflects Britain’s democratic values.