BBC In-House Producers Will Get Chance to Make Shows for Other Networks?

Tony Hall – P 2013
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"Competition is good for the BBC, and I want more of it," says Tony Hall, the head of the U.K. public broadcaster, about changes that also will allow more independent productions on BBC channels.

LONDON – Tony Hall, the head of U.K. public broadcaster BBC, on Thursday said BBC in-house producers will get the chance to make shows for other networks in Britain and abroad.

Speaking of a "competition revolution" in the digital age, he told a City University event here that the BBC will also allow more independent productions on its channels in an overhaul of a long-established quota system.

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Under the plans outlined in a speech, Hall said BBC producers would for the first time be allowed to make shows for ITV, Channel 4 and other rivals in Britain and channels or content platforms abroad. Observers have said this would be one of the biggest strategic changes in the 92-year history of the BBC.

BBC in-house producers currently make such shows as Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing and Top Gear.

On the other hand, the BBC airs such shows from independent production companies as Sherlock and The Great British Bake Off. So far, however, those have been limited to certain percentages of overall programming via annual quotas.

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"We are going to go further than we have ever done before in opening the BBC to more competition," Hall said. "And we are going to go further than we have ever done before in using external benchmarks and comparisons to drive up standards and drive down costs.
Compete or compare. That is our strategy."

Concluded Hall: "Competition is good for the BBC, and I want more of it."

He added that "this competition is going to help make the BBC as efficient as any broadcaster in the country. … But we are not going to sacrifice quality to price. We are going to have both. To use retail terminology, great programs at great prices."

Thursday's news is key ahead of negotiations between the U.K. government and the BBC about the renewal of a charter that outlines the broadcaster's role and its public financing. The charter must be renewed every few years.

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"If independent producers can take their ideas to any broadcaster around the world, I would want the same for the BBC," Hall said Thursday. "Proper competition and entrepreneurialism requires a level playing field."

Critics have long called the BBC in-house production operation bureaucratic and bloated. The in-house organization has cut jobs in recent years but still has about 2,500 staffers.

Hall concluded his speech by saying, "If the BBC ever becomes a company of bureaucrats that happens to make some broadcast output, I will have failed because the way we manage ourselves will have overwhelmed what we do. Instead we are going to be led by what we do best — by our creativity. We are going to trust it. We are going to let it speak for us. A confident BBC broadcasting to the world, open to the world. The greatest cultural force in Britain."

Twitter: @georgszalai