BBC Boss: "We Need to Find More Money"

ONE TIME USE - Tony Hall - H 2012
Luke Macgregor/Reuters

Tony Hall tells the Royal Television Society conference in London that amid the rising cost of premium TV, the public broadcaster had to "spend significantly more just to stand still."

The BBC needs to find more money, director general Tony Hall said Tuesday in calling for a debate about possible changes to its public funding model.

Speaking at the Royal Television Society's London conference, he said: "We need to find more money." When asked if that means the BBC should be allowed to raise money itself in addition to the license fee that U.K. taxpayers are charged, he didn't provide specifics, but said that additional funding "could come from a range of sources."

Hall also noted: "We never had a debate on...what is the right level of funding" and "what should we expect for that." The public broadcaster's full range of services may not be sustainable with the resources it has, he signaled, highlighting that as premium drama has become more expensive, the BBC must continue to invest in technology and other factors.

"While we believe the BBC’s public mission is as important as ever, and that we can do more for Britain, we do not believe this ambition is sustainable with the resources we have," Hall said. With the cost of premium TV having escalated in recent years, he said that the BBC had, for example, to "spend significantly more just to stand still."

He highlighted that change was needed after reductions and freezes to the license fee in recent years, while cash-rich U.S.-based technology giants have continued to grow. Doing nothing would be a “grand national error,” he said.

Hall said that BBC had a responsibility to produce shows about British people that the likes of Netflix and Amazon wouldn’t look toward, pointing to the BAFTA-winning miniseries Three Girls. “I can’t see that being funded by the SVOD giants, who are looking for big things that have a big impact globally," Hall said.

The U.K. public broadcaster had in its annual report this summer touted improvement in its gender pay gap, amid pay cuts for some top-earning male on-air stars, and highlighted continued challenges from U.S. streaming and technology giants, such as Netflix, Amazon and Apple.

Hall this summer emphasized that his team was focused on "building a BBC that is able to meet the challenges posed both by the changing habits of young audiences and the global shift in content production toward a small number of U.S.-based competitors." Arguing that "homegrown, British content has never been more under threat," he said that today's media environment is "increasingly global and more and more dominated by a small number of U.S.-based giants with extraordinary creative and financial firepower."