LONDON – BBC director general Tony Hall, in his first major speech since taking charge of the public broadcaster, outlined his plans for the grand dame of British broadcasting, pledging to invest more in drama, enhance the on-demand and catch-up online service BBC iPlayer and simplify its management structure.
Hall, speaking in the Radio Theater of BBC Broadcasting House in central London, spoke of a more “bespoke” BBC for everyone.
“As we head toward our centenary in 2022 I want us to be much more confident about the mission Lord Reith gave us a hundred years before. Still confidently informing, educating and entertaining, but in a much more personalized way. I want a BBC that everyone can be proud of, whose best days lie ahead of it,” Hall said.
Hall, who was appointed last fall, less than two weeks after George Entwistle abruptly resigned as director general after only 54 days amid the fallout from the growing Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal, said he wants to bring the BBC closer to audiences.
“We should be treating them like owners, not just as license fee payers. People should not be saying ‘the BBC,’ but ‘my BBC,’ ‘our BBC,’ ” Hall said.
“Our audiences demand to be involved and expect to participate. In the future they will talk to us and we will listen.”
Hall plans to update the BBC iPlayer to provide “functionality that will allow a more bespoke experience for every user,” and there will be a 30-day catch-up window, pending the green light to offer it from the BBC Trust, the broadcaster’s governing body.
There will also be iPlayer-only curated content and channels and users will be able to view some programs before they are broadcast.
Hall pledged an extra 20 percent investment into arts programming, which will include a new series entitled BBC Arts At… that will showcase live performances from around the country.
The broadcaster also plans to relaunch The Space, the BBC’s partnership with Arts Council England.
And marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 2016, the BBC will fully digitize its entire Shakespeare archive and make it available for free to those in education and learning in the U.K. “where rights allow.”
Building on the success of the Olympics, Hall said the BBC will deliver live experiences to audiences made up of the best video, audio, text and stats, across four screens from the TV and computer to cell and tablet devices.
Events offered across the new-look multilayered service will include the Winter Olympics, the World Cup tournament finals and the Commonwealth Games, in addition to the Edinburgh Festival and Glastonbury music festival.
Hall said the ambition is to double the BBC’s global audience by 2022 from 250 million users a week to 500 million, with more regional output a central plank of the growth strategy.