Tony Hall says BBC must make 'tough choices'

Tony Hall Tony Hall said the status quo at the BBC was unlikely to remain

Director general Tony Hall has said the BBC will have a look at its current headcount as it continues to make tough savings of over 20%.

In a speech at the Oxford Media Convention on Wednesday, he outlined that there would be a "constant emphasis on efficiency" and "tough choices" if the BBC is to remain good value for money.

"A BBC that stayed the same would be a BBC that had fallen behind its competitors and the expectations of our audiences," he warned.

"We have three years of hard work to come before we reach £700m annual savings, which we need to make," he said, adding that an extra £100m also needed to be found for innovations such as iPlayer and high-quality drama - taking total savings to 23%.

'Every pound'

Hall announced that Anne Bulford, managing director of finance and operations, will have a "fundamental look at every pound we spend" and will ask for ideas from inside and outside the organisation.

This would include looking at headcount and whether there is unnecessary duplication.

The DG also repeated that he wanted "a simpler, clearer organisation" and intends to cut the number of BBC boards by 60%.

DG's case for the licence fee

  • BBC reaches 96% of the population every week
  • Every day, the BBC is actively chosen by the British public close to 150 million times
  • Average daily use of the BBC is about six hours per household, costing each person in that household 3 pence per hour
  • Support for licence fee stands at 53%
  • This compares to the advertising model at 26% and subscription model at 17%
  • Around 90% of TV viewing is still live
  • Under 2% of households consume only on-demand content, but Hall said he wanted the licence fee to apply to those consuming content through iPlayer

Figures taken from Tony Hall's speech

Referring to the failed DMI project, he said that he wanted "every project to have clear leadership and responsibility".

"For years, we've been able to do as much, or more, with less," Hall argued. "But now we have a flat licence fee, and hundreds of millions of pounds of new obligations to fund.

"And that may mean - will mean - tough choices about how we serve our audiences. The status quo is unlikely to be an option."

He also said that spend on managing buildings and security had fallen by £17m; the BBC will save £10m a year by leaving TVC; and by moving BBC Sport from London to Salford, the cost of making football programmes has dropped by about £2m per year.

He also pointed out that, in 2006, the corporation employed 635 people in the core finance team but, by 2016, that figure would fall to around 280.

Licence fee

Hall also used his platform to champion the licence fee ahead of Charter Renewal in 2017, saying that public support for it stands at 53%.

He spoke of shrinking margins, explaining that the BBC receives about 25% of broadcasting revenues. The figure was 40% only 20 years ago and yet "we deliver four times more television channels, twice as many national radio stations, impressive web services and the iPlayer".

Top slicing the BBC, he added, will not only weaken the corporation but also "weaken the competitive intensity that underpins the success of UK broadcasting".

The BBC boss argued that the corporation, in ethos, should be more like John Lewis and less like the City.

"It is our job to hold the powerful to account on behalf of the public. So, unlike, other services, our operational and editorial independence must be complete."

For a full version of Tony Hall's speech, see here.

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