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24 September 2014
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Mark Thompson

Thompson unveils plans to transform the BBC

The BBC's Director-General Mark Thompson today outlined a new vision for programmes and content focused on 'excellence', plus radical plans for funding the ideas and transforming the BBC into a simpler, more agile and creative digital broadcaster.


An initial 2,900 jobs could go and extra resource to invest in programmes will also be released through new ways of working, productivity gains, new technology and efficiencies, as well as overhead cuts.


The target is an annual £320 million savings within three years, all of which will be redirected into programme making.


Mr Thompson told more than 27,000 staff, listening around the UK and the world, that change was precipitated by digital technology, which is shifting audience expectations and their relationship with the BBC through on demand, interactivity and personalisation.


Outlining a new programme strategy focused on 'excellence' and more investment in journalism, drama, comedy, music, learning, children's, sporting and national events and areas where the BBC has 'commanding reputations', Mr Thompson said audiences still expected the BBC to "raise its game" with ever better content.


This was how the BBC would succeed in the digital world, he said.


He emphasised that the debate around renewing the BBC's Charter also meant that the BBC had to act now to seize the argument, answer its critics and show how it could release resources to invest in ambitions outlined in its Charter Review manifesto Building Public Value and the developing programme strategy.


"My vision for the future of the BBC has three parts: a bold new programme and content strategy based above all around the idea of excellence; a transformation of the BBC into a state-of-the art digital broadcaster; and an irreversible shift in the culture of the BBC towards simplicity, opportunity and creativity.


"We should do what's right for a strong, independent BBC and its audiences in the long term, not what's politically convenient now.


"There is an amazing creative prize for the BBC and our audiences – but it's a prize that comes at a price. To achieve all this, the BBC must undergo nothing short of transformation.


"This is not a time for introspection and endless debate. It's a moment for action.


"Any discussion about the future level of the licence fee is bound to begin by asking how much of the future we can afford to pay for ourselves by becoming more efficient."


He added that the final investment will depend on how much responsibility the BBC is given to help build digital Britain: "Whichever way you look at it, the investment needed will run in the many hundreds of millions of pounds."


Four reviews have been looking at the main issues since June, alongside a new programme strategy.


The BBC's Governors have approved the overall strategy towards transformation and efficiencies.


They will consider final costs and implementation plans for all recommendations in March, to ensure moves are in licence payers' interests, before giving final approval.


Mr Thompson moved to reassure staff who may be affected by job losses, outsourcing or job moves out of London by emphasising: "The BBC has a reputation as a fair and considerate employer.


"We will not be walking away from our responsibilities or the redundancy terms we offer. We will not abandon the annual pay round or walk away from the BBC's defined benefits pension scheme."


He said people would have plenty of time to consider moves from a personal perspective and that comprehensive relocation assistance would be available for those people whose work moves out of London.


The relevant Unions will be consulted throughout the process.


Current headline recommendations include:


Programme Strategy

"Audiences want us to raise our game," said Mr Thompson.


"They want a BBC totally focused on excellence, which gives them more quality, more ambition, more depth than they get from any other broadcaster.


"They look to us for the 'commanding reputations' of broadcasting. This is where the greatest efforts and our biggest investment should go. This is the content that will really stand out in the fragmented digital future."


Commanding reputations: News & Current Affairs; Comedy and Drama; Music and music making; Knowledge building and Learning; Sporting and National Events; Children's; Local and Regional services; New services like interactivity; Navigation and media literacy.

Plus: original entertainment and programmes that are part of the national conversation like Jonathan Ross and Have I Got News For You; ground-breaking new features and format factual programmes.

Investment will be made in: original British drama and comedy across radio and television; origination budgets for the successful CBBC and CBeebies channels; BBC FOUR; Music, including a new pan BBC music strategy and the Alternative Proms as a contemporary contrast to the classical festival; Specialist Factual and interactivity; original journalism, enhanced news gathering and current affairs on BBC ONE, with more money and slots for Panorama and enhanced presence in the Middle East and across the Islamic world; sporting and national events; extending the impetus behind documentaries and the Arts, especially on BBC ONE and TWO; more ambitious content on Radio and in New Media.

But less: peaktime repeats on BBC ONE, derivative or formulaic programmes.

Value For Money Review


Three year savings target of £320 million – % will vary from division to division


Professional Services, including Finance, Property and Business Affairs, BBC People, Strategy & Distribution, Policy & Legal, Marketing, Communications and Audiences.


Costs in Professional services will be reduced by 25% (£57m). Divisional support will also be reduced.


Total number of posts affected = 2,500, half as redundancies and half outsourced... £68m

Better procurement and non headcount savings... £93m

15% efficiency savings in output areas - Radio & Music, TV, New Media, BBC News, Nations & Regions... £79m

15% savings in cost-per-hour prices for commissions from all supply sources... £80m (This includes DEC, F&L and Sport but excludes sports rights).


Mr Thompson said: "Plans will combine programme strategy aspirations, VFM savings and the impact of other reviews.


"This means net redundancies may be less than a 15% savings target suggests.


"We want to invest in new content whilst also making productivity gains in existing output.


"It may mean fewer posts on existing tasks, but new posts for new tasks.


"But we need to save before we can spend."


Content Supply Review

Mr Thompson said: "This is about making sure audiences have access to the best programmes and content in the years to come.


"There is a legitimate case for giving greater and fairer access to independents but I passionately believe a 50% quota would be a grave mistake.


"In-house production is one of the great glories of the BBC. It is a critical mass of talent and training which is important to the whole of the UK’s creative industries.


"As broadcasting fragments it's all the more important that the BBC maintains a strong and confident in-house production capacity."

25% statutory independent production quota maintained in TV – ensuring the BBC 'comfortably exceeds' it every year

in-house production commissioning guarantee of 50% of non-news output

more creative decisions delegated to in-house leaders

executive producers able to plan more effectively

25% Window of Creative Competition for both in-house and the independents

Reduce in-house production capacity for TV from over 70% to 60% overall, ie 10% over the minimum output deal

Averages will vary from genre to genre

In Factual & Learning this means just over 400 job losses

Simplify and improve the commissioning process, with equal access for both in-house and external suppliers

In Radio – extend the 10% voluntary independent quota to include Sport, radio in the Nations and the new digital radio channels

A review of commissioning on Radio 4

Jenny Abramsky, Director of Radio & Music, will lead development of a new pan BBC music strategy

In New Media – a 25% quota for external production of online content and services in line with Graf Report recommendations

The BBC will retain strength and depth across all genres and sufficient scale to continue to help to train the industry.


Out of London


Mr Thompson said: "Out of London is a much bigger idea than creating a state of the art creative and broadcast centre in Manchester.


"It ties in with all the themes in Building Public Value about re-connecting and embedding the BBC in communities all over the UK.


"It will change our tone of voice as an organisation.


"It will open doors to new talent and new perspectives.


"It will win back trust in parts of the country which can currently feel quite alienated from the BBC."

Manchester - a state of the art centre, populated by services relevant in decades to come, with brilliant career and creative opportunities

Moves of real money and decision making power will redress lower spend per head in the North than in London and develop a thriving creative community

Moves include: children's TV and Radio including two national children's networks, CBBC and CBeebies; BBC Sport; Five Live and Five Live Sports Extra; New Media and R&D; Formal Learning, including the Digital Curriculum

Create a Media Enterprise Zone in partnership with PACT, regional development bodies and other broadcasters

Estimated number of staff moving = 1,800

Value of commissioning moving = £275m. Value of network production moving = £225m

Governors support the Manchester vision. It is a large scale investment and they will give final sign off when the financial picture for the next Charter period, including the licence fee, is clear

It is likely to be five years before any major moves take place

Peter Salmon will lead the Manchester initiative

Other moves - besides Manchester, network commissions from the Nations will increase by 50% to 17% of overall network commissions

TV drama made outside London to increase from 30% to 50% during the next Charter

We will appoint a commissioner for Daytime in Birmingham, for Comedy and Entertainment in Glasgow and part of Factual commissioning will be based in Bristol

We will pursue the vision of more local TV and radio, Open Centres and buses giving people access to learn new media, outlined in BPV.


Commercial Review

Mr Thompson said: "We believe that the BBC should only have commercial activities which exploit and/or export BBC content and the BBC brand.


"We have a duty to run these activities to maximise profits for the licence-payer.


"However, it is not essential that all businesses are fully-owned by the BBC.


"We will actively start to explore options, including those of partnering, joint venturing or sale with the management teams of BBC Broadcast and BBC Resources, and with the market."


BBC Broadcast and BBC Resources - we will look at new ownership options (JV, partnership or sale) which work in the best interests of the businesses and the BBC

We will be inviting bids for BBC Broadcast in the New Year

BBC Resources – we will ensure strong contracts with the BBC and look at the impact of other Reviews, particularly Out of London and work moving to Manchester, then decide on the best option

There will be strong safeguards for continuity of service and for staff who provide crucial and high quality services to the BBC and to other clients

BBC Worldwide – the BBC should be the long term owner of Worldwide's TV channels business, TV sales and magazines

There are opportunities for growth in global channels and sales with other UK broadcasters

Magazines should focus more on brands and subjects connected to the BBC's core programmes and mission, but there will be opportunities overseas

Trailing magazines on air should stop

Worldwide's books, learning and other businesses lack scale so JVs, partnering or sale will be considered

There will be governance reform in Worldwide by introducing non-executive directors

BBC Worldwide will have the challenge of doubling profits over the next 24 months.


Any proposal to transfer the ownership or control of BBC Resources or to privatise BBC Broadcast whole or in part would require the approval of the Secretary of State.


Later today, Mr Thompson will be delivering the New Statesman Lecture and will also say: "I've come back to the BBC at a critical moment in its history: a moment which calls both for a spirit of conservation – for the nurturing and protection of some of the BBC's greatest strengths and traditions – but also for a spirit of quite radical change.


"In a way, you can see the BBC as three quite different things wrapped up into one.


"First, it is a very substantial, highly creative, sometimes rather unruly multimedia broadcaster.


"Second, it is a financially and constitutionally unique institution in the British public firmament.


"Third, it is a World Heritage site.


"Despite its eccentricities and failings, it remains one of the greatest – perhaps the greatest – force for cultural good on the face of the earth."



Category: BBC

Date: 07.12.2004
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