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The BBC will get a bigger percentage of its growing revenue from its U.K. commercial business in the future, but the license fee will remain the biggest source of income, Tim Davie, director general of the U.K. public broadcaster, told a TV industry event in London on Tuesday.
He also shared that he and his team would continue to look at possibly closing down some BBC services over time amid questions over future funding. He hinted that foreign-language news services could be cut if the government doesn’t help with increased financing, saying that the BBC World Service is a trusted news service, but key questions will be who will fund it in the future, what offers to continue and how to distribute them.
“The first figures I get are not broadcast figures anymore,” but online ratings, he told the Royal Television Society (RTS) London Convention 2022 in a conversation with BBC journalist Amol Rajan about future BBC funding, impartiality and other key topics facing the British broadcaster.
Asked about the BBC license fee having been described as the least bad option to help fund the BBC, Davie said: “It’s not perfect.” He added: “But it delivers stability,” ensuring impartiality and secure funding. “The license fee is there to beat” as he has no alternative model that he has come to see as superior, Davie concluded. “We need to be relevant.”
The fee of £159 ($188) per year, which U.K. taxpayers pay to help fund the BBC, has been a key topic of debate over the years. In late March, the BBC said that it would “need to find £285 million ($375 million) in annual savings by 2027/28, requiring a reduction in the content and services we provide to audiences,” as a result of a recent license fee settlement with the British government. Under that, the fee will be frozen at its current price for two years from ’22/’23 and then rise in line with inflation for the following four years.
Asked about the BBC’s coverage of the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Davie said that among the important things was getting the initial news right and out in a “flawless” way.
He also addressed the decision to push back the launch dates of such shows as Strictly Come Dancing. “We had enormous decisions to make, thinking about Strictly and other big shows,” Davie said. He also lauded the “broad squad” of hosts and pundits that the BBC had on air during the mourning period.
“Good intent is not enough,” he said, meanwhile, when asked about the need for socio-economic diversity and inclusion targets. “Group think” is seen as “unfair,” he added.
Diversity and representation has been a big topic for the BBC. Earlier this year, for example, it set out a target of 25 percent of staff being “from lower socio-economic backgrounds” by 2027 to “ensure our workforce is more representative of the audiences we serve.” It highlighted that this makes the BBC “one of the first media organizations in the U.K. to set a target for socioeconomic diversity.”
In late July, the BBC said it was on track to spend £100 million ($121 million) on diverse and inclusive TV content by 2023/2024, a target it had set for itself in 2020 in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd.
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