BBC Targets More Cost Cuts, "Internet Fitness," Governance Reforms

BBC London headquarters HQ - H 2015
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In its response to a government paper on the U.K. public broadcaster's charter review, it also underlines its desire to continue airing big entertainment shows and says it wants to be the "cornerstone of Britain’s creative industries."

The BBC on Thursday outlined its plans to further reduce costs, by 20 percent over a five-year period, and ensure its services are all "Internet fit."

In its detailed response of more than 100 pages to a government green paper on the U.K. public broadcaster's charter review, it also underlined its desire to continue airing big entertainment shows.

"The document sets out the case for a new charter allowing the BBC to continue to serve all audiences, focus investment on British content and act as the cornerstone of Britain’s creative industries," the BBC said in a summary. "It also sets out how the BBC will become more open, with more partnerships and collaborative working on everything from the arts to local news provision.

It added that the document "makes clear the BBC’s commitment to reform" in addition to detailing proposals to protect its independence from political influence. "The response shows that the BBC is working well today and helping to grow the creative industries, while acknowledging the need to modernize to respond to changing lifestyles, technology and the media landscape," the summary said.

The BBC paper said the broadcaster was "planning to save almost 20 percent over the first five years of the next charter, having already saved more than 40 percent of our addressable cost base in this charter period, with greater levels of efficiency savings than the public sector/government average."

Among other moves, it plans to reduce overhead "to less than seven percent, inside the top 25 percent of private regulated companies, having already got to less than eight percent this year."

The BBC also reiterated its goal of "growing our overall commercial return in the first five years of the next charter to a cumulative $1.84 billion (£1.20 billion), up 15 percent," with BBC Worldwide continuing as "an integral part of the BBC."

The BBC also said it was looking for an 11-year charter instead of the typical 10-year charter to ensure its independence. And it said it was committed to "reform to the BBC’s system of governance and regulation to provide greater clarity and improved accountability."

Another key goal that the broadcaster highlighted was "transforming the BBC's services to be Internet fit, on the way to them being ready for an Internet-only world whenever it comes."

And the document argued that for the BBC to continue to serve everyone, "it should carry on offering high-quality programs across a broad range of genres." Critics have focused on such entertainment formats as The Voice, among other things, saying they shouldn't be part of a public service broadcasting mission.

“The government is right to insist that the BBC should be distinctive," the broadcaster said. "We propose a simple test: that every BBC service should be clearly distinguishable from its commercial competitors."

It argued that the BBC "turns things as diverse as ballroom dancing (Strictly Come Dancing), home baking (The Great British Bake Off), business (The Apprentice)" and others "into national events."

Said BBC director general Tony Hall: "Every week, the BBC informs, educates and entertains almost everyone in Britain. As the cornerstone of the U.K.’s creative industries, the BBC is also an engine for growth, supporting jobs and businesses in the wider economy. The public wants a strong – and independent – BBC that produces great programs, gives them impartial news and ensures Britain’s voice is heard abroad. Our program of reform will ensure the BBC is fit for the Internet age, focused on the things that matter to audiences, continues to support the economy and is an unashamed champion of British talent, content and creativity"

Concluded Hall: “We look forward to working constructively with the government in the months ahead to ensure the British public continues to have a BBC they are proud of."