As part of work to deliver savings across the BBC, we have been considering our involvement in Big Screens. Today we have told staff that we propose to close the Big Screen department at the end of March 2013.
Big Screens first began in 2002 when 5 screens around the UK were set up as part of the Public Space Broadcasting project for people to gather and share great moments in sport, music and world events.
In 2008, the BBC and local authorities began a partnership with LOCOG as part of plans to engage the whole nation with the London 2012 games. There are now 22 Big Screens around the UK, including in Belfast, Plymouth, Norwich and Edinburgh.
The screens are run by the councils and broadcast live big events that the BBC holds the rights to such as the Olympics, The Proms, and Wimbledon. When no live big events are showing, the BBC has also been responsible for producing a rolling stream of content which includes edited material from the BBC, LOCOG, councils and a whole range of partners such as local community projects.
The partnership agreement with the councils and LOCOG comes to an end in December 2012.
Our research shows that audiences have most appreciated the screening of our live big events. As the screens are run by the councils, this could continue without the BBC’s involvement if councils wished, providing they have the relevant TV licence.
However, staffing and production for the Big Screens costs the BBC almost £1.4m per annum. The budget of the Operations division, under which Big Screens falls, is being cut by 25% and having carefully considered all possible options over the last few months, we regrettably believe this is no longer an area that the BBC can continue to fund.
We are now consulting with affected staff, unions and the councils about this proposal. While we know some may be disappointed that we are no longer able to deliver our previous Big Screen offering, we hope that the most successful aspect – broadcasting live big events – can remain.
UPDATE 15 January 2013: At the councils’ request we have agreed to a temporary extension of the BBC’s involvement in the Big Screens project while they put in place alternative arrangements. The BBC will now end its involvement with the Big Screens at the end of September 2013.