The MacTaggart Lecture: A Time for Change
the Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival
start by saying how pleased I was to be asked to deliver the MacTaggart
Lecture in this the 25th year of the Edinburgh International Television
here for the first few years but I have been coming on and off for most
of the Festival's existence.
things have changed fundamentally since those early days. Firstly the
size and professionalism of the festival has changed beyond recognition.
the price of hotels in Edinburgh for this particular weekend have gone
through the roof.
and the biggest change of all, my friend Gus MacDonald has gone from
being a radical programme maker with strong far left credentials to
become Lord MacDonald of Tradeston.
years ago the only thing less likely than me becoming Director-General
of the BBC was you agreeing to become a member of the House of Lords.
I'm the first ever Director-General never to have worked for the BBC
before taking on the role. I only ever applied for two jobs at the BBC
– the first in 1970 as a reporter on Radio Teeside, which I failed
to get, and the second nearly 30 years later as Director-General.
I am also
flattered to be the first person ever to deliver the MacTaggart lecture
twice, although there is one big drawback to that. I used all my best
jokes the first time. So forgive me if my lecture here tonight is unremittingly
serious and I realise that as a result, some will think that I've gone
completely native after less than a year at the BBC.
my lecture was about broadcasting and politics. My concern then was
that the relationship between Government and broadcasters was in danger
of becoming unhealthy; that as the world of broadcasting was changing
broadcasters were always wanting something from the Government and,
as such, were less likely to be brave in their programming when standing
up to the Government of the day.
have that concern – in fact the danger has grown. Broadcasters
today want more from Government than we could possibly have imagined
just six years ago.
why the Government's decision to give the BBC a seven year licence fee
agreement, right through to the end of the current BBC Charter, is important.
It gives the BBC the freedom and independence to be brave.
we all still need to be vigilant in the area of political independence
and I am particularly concerned when I read of proposals for a single
content regulator across the whole television industry.
we have a far better chance of resisting political pressure if, between
us, we have more than one content regulator. Pluralism in regulation
is as important as pluralism among broadcasters.
I don't plan to talk about politics, I want to talk about change and
why it is difficult to bring about in an organisation like the BBC.
Chamber in Broadcasting House at the BBC is an austere place where the
windows are set so high that no one can see in or out. If you believe
that is symbolic, beware - our new boardroom has no windows at all.
go into the Council Chamber you will find something equally symbolic
- the portraits of previous Directors-General hang on the walls around
you to serve as a constant reminder of the BBC's heritage.
spot above the mantelpiece, pride of place rightly goes to the BBC's
founder, John Reith. The second best spot, directly opposite him, is
taken by Hugh Carleton Greene. These are seen by many as the two truly
myth of the BBC is that there is a single flame, a single idea handed
seamlessly from generation to generation.
is public service broadcasting and each generation understands its inheritance
and fights not to change it but to defend it to the death.
the previous Directors-General looking down upon you is no doubt intended
to remind you that you tamper with it at your peril.
of course, is very different. John Reith – on your right as you
walk into the Council Chamber – ended up disliking Greene, on
the left, with an intense passion.
view was that Greene had trivialised his great institution; that Greene
had – dare I use the words – "dumbed down" the
put it when talking about Greene, "I lead, he follows the crowd
in all the disgusting manifestations of the age… Without any reservation
he gives the public what it wants; I would not, did not and said I wouldn't.
I am very annoyed that I even got on to terms with him".
many of the changes attributed to Greene had actually been started by
his predecessor Sir Ian Jacob. Reith's views of Jacob were similar to
his views of Greene. When he heard Jacob's portrait was going to be
hung in the Council Chamber, Reith was so angry that he demanded that
his own portrait be removed.
Jacob and Greene actually done to so upset the BBC's founder? The story
is very illuminating.
Greene had been Director of News and Current Affairs and had set about
introducing radical change.
mid-fifties the great joke about BBC News was that every newsreel would
begin, "The Queen Mother yesterday…". I do, of course,
realise that I am on dangerous ground when talking of the Queen Mother,
but I'll take the risk.
the joke. All newsreels started "The Queen Mother yesterday".
The Queen Mother because everyone loved the Queen Mother; and yesterday
because it took the BBC at least a day to check with the Queen Mother
that she had done what she was said to have done, even though they had
film of her doing it.
set about changing the whole journalistic ethos of the BBC, transforming
a largely obsequious and deferential institution into a gritty news
organisation that could respond swiftly and imaginatively.
heart of the changes were two extremely controversial views, though:
firstly that television not newspapers would prove to be the bedrock
of news reporting in the future; and secondly that news and current
affairs had to be less isolated from the rest of the BBC.
out of these twin beliefs that truly ground-breaking genre-defying programmes
like Cathy Come Home were later to spring.
years running News and Current Affairs, Greene became Director-General
in 1960 at a time of real turmoil in the industry.
on becoming Director-General one of Greene's first actions was to move
the nine o'clock news on the old Home Service, now Radio Four, to ten
o'clock. You will not be surprised to know that the decision was ferociously
attacked at the time.
BBC Television was in real trouble. ITV had come into existence in 1954
and after a difficult start was making life very hard for the BBC.
share had gone from 100% to 34% in only six years, and remember this
was still only a two channel world.
programmes like Double Your Money, Take Your Pick and a raft of popular
American series, ITV was stealing the hearts and minds of British viewers.
BBC Television, obsessed with its own importance, was inward looking
and hardly seemed to notice what was going on.
Greene set about changing this. For the first time British audiences
were to be offered a diet of programming that was both challenging and
popular, programmes like Play for Today, Z Cars, The Forsyte Saga, That
Was the Week That Was, 'Til Death Us Do Part, Doctor Who, Monty Python's
Flying Circus and literally dozens of others.
that Greene produced these programmes, of course he didn't. But he did
make them possible. He gave BBC producers the ambition to make popular
quality programming for the first time – programmes which both
appealed to large audiences and made a difference to their lives.
terms, the BBC made a great recovery which left ITV with no option but
to follow the BBC's lead, effectively making Greene the founder of modern
day British television.
didn't end with television either. When Radio Caroline and other pirate
stations started broadcasting under a Panamanian flag of convenience
in 1964 he not only argued that they should be closed down, but along
with Frank Gillard, his legendary head of radio, he put in place the
now familiar pattern of Radios 1, 2, 3 and 4. Imagine the fuss that
and Gillard's reforms of radio and television brought cries of derision.
A Times leader accused the BBC of "abandoning their role as the
sponsors and protectors of quality broadcasting".
now seemingly innocuous Z Cars received its fair share of condemnation.
The Chief Constable of Lancashire, Colonel Eric St Johnstone, demanded
that it be cancelled. His force, to a man, he complained, were full
complained about the spate of modern plays on the BBC: "We are
told that the dramatists are portraying real life, but why concentrate
on the kitchen sink when there are so many pleasant sitting rooms?"
she said of Greene: "If you were to ask me who, above all, was
responsible for the moral collapse which characterised the Sixties and
Seventies, I would unhesitatingly name Sir Hugh Carleton Greene."
from journalists, politicians, the great and the good and even some
of the BBC's own staff at any mooted change in BBC radio or television
is a pattern you can find throughout the history of the BBC.
at the last decade – changes within all of our memories. Remember
the fuss and outrage when Matthew Bannister re-shaped and effectively
re-invented Radio 1 in the mid Nineties? Yet Radio 1 is now seen as
one of the great success stories of the BBC.
the fuss when the BBC created Radio Five Live with the idea of starting
a radio station aimed at a younger audience and based around news and
sport? Today Five Live is supreme in its field and its audience is still
growing rapidly year by year.
when John Birt set up BBC Online? He was widely accused of wasting licence
payers' money and yet now it is the most visited content site in Europe
and widely loved by some of the very people who accused him of wasting
money at the time.
any of these recent examples a few of you may remember Grace Archer's
death in the Archers – which just happened to coincide with the
opening night of ITV.
greeted by Denis Pitts in the Daily Herald with the following denunciation:
"The BBC went too far on Thursday when, for the sake of a stunt,
they killed off Grace Archer. The stunt was mean, callous and cold-blooded.
I accuse the BBC of a shabby trick which has left an unpleasant taste
in nine million mouths. I am angry. So is my wife."
to wonder what his wife would have thought about EastEnders.
sixties the opponents of change and in particular Greene's style of
populism were everywhere.
see Steptoe and Son as the great turning point in British situation
comedy, a seminal series which helped pave the way for Dad's Army, 'Til
Death Us Do Part, Fawlty Towers, Only Fools and Horses and many others.
But it wasn't always perceived as that.
Brambell – the Shakespearean actor who played Steptoe senior said
at the time: "I suppose every actor has to get into dustbin drama
sooner or later".
if anyone today would ever have heard of Brambell if he hadn't got into
"dustbin drama" – I rather doubt it.
this is new. As the BBC's Chief Archivist described it to me, "The
BBC has been accused of dumbing down from the day Reith invented it."
any significant change and the BBC is accused of betraying its heritage.
is that the real genius of the BBC is that it has adapted and changed
over the years. Successive generations of leaders have not simply taken
the flame of public service broadcasting as a whole and passed it on
times in the BBC's history they have recognised that change was essential
and have taken the bold decision to introduce it despite loud protests
from all around them.
large history has rewarded their courage and their detractors have been
forgotten. No Director-General was more criticised than Greene and yet
today his memory is revered - without Greene there would not be the
BBC as we know it. Reith invented the BBC for one age. Greene re-invented
it for another.
it's pretty obvious why there are so many howls when anyone wants to
change even comparatively small parts of the BBC.
Machiavelli, when writing The Prince, who summed it up when he wrote:
is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more
dangerous to manage than the creation of a new system. For the initiator
has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old
institutions and merely lukewarm defenders in those who would gain by
when I looked up that quote in my files written on the same sheet was
one which is less philosophical but equally applicable.
from the former French President General De Gaulle who said: "Never
stand between the dog and the lamp post."
this history, why try to change the BBC?
the venom directed at John Birt – the man who had the courage
to start the modernisation process at the BBC.
radical in an age when attacks from sections of the press are more vicious
and more personal than ever before; when the BBC's commercial competitors
are more ruthless than they have ever been; and when some politicians
and commentators seem more interested in quick headlines than in trying
to understand the real issues?
of course, is we have no option. I believe the stark choice facing the
BBC today is that we either change or we simply manage decline gracefully
and none of us joined the BBC to do that.
happening in technology; in the wider society; and in our competitive
environment are what make this one of those times in history when change
at the BBC is essential.
technology first. Digital television, and with it as many as 160 channels
in digital satellite homes, has arrived at a pace faster than any could
have imagined, certainly faster than I anticipated when I gave this
lecture six years ago.
are only just beginning to see what digital television can really bring.
programme guides are already changing viewing habits in digital homes
dramatically, but the real revolution will come with the arrival of
the TiVo box and similar in-home, hard disc recording technologies which
will give the consumer complete freedom to watch what they want, when
they want it.
believe there will be a role for conventional channels by the end of
this decade - at times people will still want informed selection - but
the channels are likely to be more focussed, and aimed either at particular
audience groups or based on particular programme genres.
society is changing. Huge gulfs have opened up in the attitudes and
values of different generations in a way not seen before.
research people from different age groups were asked if they agreed
or disagreed with the following statement: 'There is too much sex, bad
language and violence on TV and in cinema today.'
the over 45s 72% said they agreed. Amongst the 25 to 34 year olds 79%
polarisation of views creates real challenges for programme makers,
broadcasters and regulators alike, particularly in the areas of taste
brought up in the Thatcher age are the biggest challenge of all whether
you're a politician, the Chief Executive of Marks and Spencer or a television
are the children of the multi-channel age, they are used to choice and
love it – whether it's shopping, music or television and they
are certainly not deferential to Britain's traditional institutions
like the BBC.
doesn't complain if they don't like our schedules they simply turn over.
'Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells' is disappearing and being replaced by
'Not bothered of Newcastle'.
the retiring speaker of the House of Commons reminded us recently this
is also a generation with very little interest in conventional politics.
what we know is that they are passionate about many of the important
issues of our times, they just don't think Westminster politics can
provide the answers.
this will become an increasingly serious problem for broadcasters and
programme-makers steeped in a tradition of reporting conventional politics.
BBC is to stay relevant over this decade we have to understand this
generation and meet their needs, not only because they matter, but because
we are all being influenced by them.
old days kids wanted to be like their parents. These days parents, terrified
of growing old, want to be more like their kids.
Dylan wrote: "I was so much older then I'm younger than that now."
reason the BBC has to change is that the BBC's competitive environment
has changed and will be transformed beyond recognition in the next decade.
and merger are the order of the day amongst media companies. Our competitors
today are bigger, richer and more ruthless than at any time in the BBC's
increasingly part of a global media industry which has access to vast
capital funds. This is competition on a scale the BBC has never seen
combination of factors which mean that this is one of those periods
when the BBC, and BBC Television in particular, has to go through fundamental
change. In the words of Margaret Thatcher: "There is no alternative".
the BBC we have been discussing the changes we need to make to our television
channels since I first took over, as no doubt many of you have read
in Broadcast and elsewhere.
I have discovered in that time is that there is no such thing as a confidential
debate in the BBC, but if a few headlines are the price you pay for
an open and questioning environment it is a price worth paying.
BBC we all recognise that changing anything is difficult to achieve
without controversy. But no-one feels this more keenly than our new
Director of Television Mark Thompson who went to make the keynote speech
at the Banff festival in Canada a couple of months ago.
the opportunity to outline some ideas about the future of our television
services in an intelligent and thought provoking speech. He opened the
days the forces of darkness came down upon him. He was accused of being
a philistine with plans to turn BBC ONE into an all entertainment channel,
which he didn't say and is not true, and relegating all serious programming
to the fringes, again which he didn't say and is not true.
all familiar stuff. Predictably the retired old men of the BBC came
out in force to defend yesterday as they always have done and always
read the speech? I doubt it. Did they understand the arguments? Unlikely.
They just want television the way it was in their day. But that simply
isn't an option.
are the changes we plan to make?
of the dangers of making this speech here today is, as our Head of Press
said to me, I'm bound to disappoint. He told me "people are expecting
you to be Moses coming down from the mountain with tablets of stone".
Moses had it easy - he only had to carry the stone, someone else had
already worked out the messages.
make it clear, I haven't come here today with all the answers, there
are no new Ten Commandments.
do have are some exciting ideas for the future of BBC Television in
the first decade of a new century which also happens to be the first
decade of the digital age. Like all ideas some will succeed and others
won't but that doesn't matter, this is only the start of a journey,
the process of change is ongoing.
explain our plans in three parts.
all I want to talk about money and what the BBC can and cannot afford
I'd like to talk about our proposals for a portfolio of BBC public service
channels, which will eventually be available in every home in Britain.
I want to talk about the purpose of the BBC and public service broadcasting
in the digital age.
with the money then. One thing I have learned in my years in the television
industry is that money matters when you're trying to make outstanding
enough on its own – at some time or other most of us have spent
a lot of money producing a very average programme - but trying to make
fantastic programmes without the right budget is incredibly difficult.
I believe one of the problems of BBC Television today is that too many
of our services have been under funded.
certainly needs more money, particularly for drama and quality entertainment
and two of our digital services, BBC CHOICE and BBC KNOWLEDGE, were
started without enough money to commission truly original and inspiring
programmes, programming of the quality people expect from the BBC.
If we want
to spend more money on our traditional services, and we do need to,
there are certain consequences. Firstly we have to find the money and
secondly we have to limit our plans for new services to what we can
licence fee settlement, which gave us an increase of inflation plus
1.5% every year for seven years was a fair, even generous, award. By
2007 this will produce a real increase of £250 million in that
year compared to last year.
is too late. If we want to shine in the new competitive digital age,
and we must, we need to spend more money now, which is why I've spent
so much time in my first six months as Director-General looking for
ways to save money right across the BBC.
to say I believe the potential for savings is significant. The BBC currently
spends 24% of its income on running the institution of the BBC. Our
target is to reduce that figure to 15% over the next three years which
will give us an extra £200 million a year to spend on programmes
and services if we achieve it.
that over five years we can do better than that. We've made a good start
and believe me it's a lot more than just cabs, croissants and consultants.
believe we can increase our commercial income from BBC Worldwide and
BBC Resources Ltd - and we've established BBC Technology Ltd with the
aim of bringing additional revenue into the BBC.
looking at whether there are more commercial opportunities in the world
of new media than we're presently exploiting but that review is not
thing we have to do, if we want better funded services, is to limit
our ambitions for expansion.
of the BBC over the years has been that it has tried to do everything
the commercial sector has done. Those days have to be at an end. We
cannot possibly afford to have a tank on every lawn, or compete in every
area of the market place.
to agree the range of services which people will get for their licence
fee and then call a halt. That way we can ensure that those services
are properly funded and are services we can all be proud of.
then of the licence fee increases, the major savings we're making inside
the organisation and our growing commercial revenues means we can afford
a significant increase in our spending.
financial year we will be spending £100 million more on programmes
than last year, and that doesn't take into account the cost of covering
the Sydney Olympics, which is extra.
we plan to increase that by a further £250 million above inflation
and the year after by another £130 million.
in the year 2002/3 we will be spending £480 million a year more
on our programmes and services than we spent last year – a 30%
real increase in programme spend over just three years.
to the biggest increase in programme expenditure in BBC history.
more than half of that money will have been saved inside the BBC. This
will not be achieved without real pain and a lot of people will have
lost their jobs through no fault of their own.
we are spending licence fee payers' money and the obligation on us must
be to spend as much as possible on programmes.
are we planning to do with the money?
that in the age of digital television it will not be sufficient for
the BBC to offer only two mixed genre channels which are somehow supposed
to meet the needs of everyone. That is not how audiences will want to
receive television in the future. We need a more coherent portfolio
as I've already said, people have an expectation of BBC channels in
terms of quality which we have to meet. As we are inevitably constrained
by money, this means we must limit the size of this portfolio.
is another more important reason for limiting the number of channels
we plan and that is the principle of universality. What universality
means is making all our publicly funded services available in all homes.
has been one of the core principles of public service broadcasting in
the past and should remain so in the digital age.
that everyone regardless of race, creed or bank balance will have access
to the BBC's services.
others I have at times toyed with the idea of a subscription-funded
BBC. But now that we can all see the dangers of the digital revolution,
as well as the advantages, the principle of universality is more important
avoid the emergence of a digital underclass, a world where some are
information rich while others are information poor.
can help to achieve this both with our ambitious plans in the world
of education but also by seeking to ensure that all our publicly funded
channels are available in every home.
should be an essential part of the glue which binds this society together
in the digital age.
to achieve this principle of universality it means we are only going
to offer a portfolio of channels now, which, within a reasonable period
of time, will be available in every household in the land.
proposals for analogue switch off, possibly in the latter part of this
decade, will make this achievable. For then all homes will be digital
and all will be multi-channel.
what all this means is that we believe we should offer a portfolio of
seven services across five channels. Five, because this is the maximum
number we believe we will be able to deliver on our digital terrestrial
multiplex, the platform with the least capacity.
we could do more on satellite or cable but this would mean abandoning
our aim of universality.
seven services across five channels is also the number we believe we
can afford to fund. Together they will enable the BBC to meet the needs
of our increasingly diverse audiences.
are these seven services? Well two of them are pretty obvious, BBC ONE
and BBC TWO will continue as the mainstays of BBC Television for the
foreseeable future and be the only BBC channels available in every home
until analogue switch-off.
these channels right for the future is a big challenge. In the early
years BBC ONE and BBC TWO will still have to be aimed at people who
only have analogue television, the majority of homes until at least
over time they will need to evolve to become part of a BBC five channel
offering which will eventually be available in every home.
we can't have analogue switch-off tomorrow, we have to face a world
of two speed television. This will be a difficult trick for all of us
to pull off.
ONE in particular this challenge comes at a difficult time when, partly
as a result of under-funding, the channel is not doing as well as it
Smith acknowledged in a recent interview in the New Statesman, we had
very good Autumn and Winter schedules last year and we have some great
programmes this autumn, including the adaptation of Kingsley Amis' Take
a Girl Like You; William Ivory's new drama The Sins and Sir David Attenborough's
new series State of the Planet.
more of that kind of popular, quality programming. I believe we now
live in a competitive world where the average simply isn't good enough.
We need more of the very best.
needs to have a greater impact on people's lives. It needs to be more
modern, more in touch, more contemporary. It needs more programming
that you simply cannot miss.
may mean that some old faithfuls disappear and others move from the
fringe of BBC ONE to peak time on BBC TWO, it does not mean we are banishing
all current affairs, documentaries, religion and arts to other channels.
Far from it.
in these genres, just as in drama and entertainment, needs to be more
engaging, more exciting, more gripping if it is to be on BBC ONE.
more factual programmes like Walking with Dinosaurs, Fergal Keane's
Britain, Eyes of a Child or the Panorama Special on football hooliganism.
More compelling drama like Warriors, Clocking Off or Wives and Daughters,
more comedy like The Royle Family or The Vicar of Dibley and more investment
in mainstream sport.
is to make BBC ONE the gold standard of mainstream television.
this is going to cost and we plan a major injection of cash. More than
half of the extra money to be spent on the BBC overall will go on improving
and modernising BBC ONE and TWO, with most going onto BBC ONE.
alone BBC ONE's budget will be increased by £95 million and the
year after by a further £55 million, with a lot of this additional
money to be spent on drama.
move onto news. News is the cornerstone of public service broadcasting
on the BBC and I think I can say with some confidence that the BBC is
now Britain's pre-eminent news supplier. Currently we have a 66% share
of all network television news consumed in Britain.
ONE we have created a highly successful news hour between six and seven
with the BBC's six o'clock national news convincingly beating the six-thirty
want to turn our attention to the mid-evening slot. After a great deal
of thought we have decided that we will move the BBC's nine o'clock
news to ten o'clock next year.
we believe it is a better slot, after the US markets close and in time
to report on the Commons' divisions, but the main reason for the move
is that we believe that more people will watch it, it's as simple as
a more secure slot for the BBC's main evening news in the digital world.
Currently in digital homes audience share for the nine o'clock news
often falls below 10%.
multi-channel world the nine o'clock slot, the start of the post watershed
schedule, is a lot tougher than ten.
to ten o'clock also gives us the opportunity to expand in an area which
is increasingly under threat on ITV – regional news and regional
early evening regional news is now beating ITV in all but one region
in England, is winning comprehensively in Wales, is neck and neck here
in Scotland and is closing the gap in Northern Ireland.
have been unthinkable only five years ago but commercial pressures are
inevitably taking their toll on the regional nature of ITV.
late regional news now relegated to 11.20pm we believe we have a real
opportunity to provide a stronger regional news service at a more accessible
the move of the nine o'clock news to ten we plan to double the length
of our late regional news bulletins and improve their quality.
of news and current affairs this all means that there will be a full
hour and a quarter available on BBC Television after ten o'clock, starting
with UK and local news on BBC ONE followed immediately by Newsnight
on BBC TWO.
I move on let me say a bit more about the BBC and the Nations and Regions.
years the BBC was a very London-centric organisation. This is no longer
in keeping with the times. I believe the responsibility for reflecting
the UK in all its many forms has gradually shifted from ITV to the BBC
over the years. It will be a central plank of the BBC's purpose in the
giving more power to the Nations and Regions. Next April we're handing
back control of production facilities in Scotland, Wales and Northern
Ireland to the national Controllers.
planning to increase the budgets in the Nations and English Regions
by a total of £50 million a year over the next two years. It will
be for the Controllers in those parts of the UK to decide how that money
is spent, not for London.
may seem odd to say all this in a month in which we have announced the
closure of our two large studios in Birmingham and created a studio
joint venture with Granada in Manchester. But don't confuse studio capacity
with a commitment to regionalism.
know that changes in production techniques have meant that none of us
need as many large studios as we once did. The money saved in Manchester
and Birmingham from these changes will all be spent on regional production.
move onto BBC TWO. This is a success story with the channel achieving
a higher share of the audience now than it had ten years ago.
is also a channel with a split personality. It's the channel of the
Open University at the same as being the channel of Gimme Gimme Gimme
and The League of Gentlemen.
mix has worked brilliantly in the analogue world but in a digital world
of 160 channels it may make less sense to viewers.
4 may face the same problem. In the end there is very little audience
flow from Robot Wars to Crufts Dog Show.
long term we plan that BBC TWO will increasingly focus on intelligent
specialist factual programmes, our key leisure and lifestyle programmes,
thoughtful analysis, creatively ambitious drama and comedy, and specialist
be for some years, maybe not until analogue switch-off. Until then BBC
TWO will continue to offer a rich and diverse range of programmes.
still be the test bed for edgy comedy and entertainment aimed primarily
at young audiences, some of which will graduate to BBC ONE.
retain, of course, its wide ranging commitment to serious programmes
of all kinds. It will also provide a peak-time home for some of the
programming which is currently shown late night on BBC ONE.
the new channels. Imaginatively we've given them the working titles
of BBC THREE and BBC FOUR.
I said earlier about the importance of reaching younger audiences it
will come as no surprise to learn that we propose to use the evenings
on one of our digital channels for programming aimed at this age group.
will offer original British comedy, drama and music as well as providing
arts, education and social action programming delivered in a way likely
to be attractive to a young audience.
been piloting a very different sort of news bulletin that breaks many
of the conventions of traditional news services.
in developing BBC THREE we will need to break a lot more rules before
for this lecture I read that at the time of the BBC's fiftieth birthday
someone scrawled across the wall in the gents toilets at Television
Centre, "The BBC has always been 50".
BBC THREE we've got to learn to be 20. We know we can do it because
we do it on Radio 1.
will emerge out of BBC CHOICE but will have a significantly higher budget.
will be very different. It will be unashamedly intellectual, a mixture
of Radios 3 and 4 on television.
be based around arts, challenging music, ideas and in-depth discussion.
It will be serious in intent but unstuffy and contemporary. It will
be a style of television which you can't find anywhere else. Is there
an appetite for it?
than 800,000 people visited the Monet exhibition at the Royal Academy
last summer and on just one Saturday this year more people visited Tate
Modern than fill Wembley Stadium for an international football match.
around Britain festivals like the one here in Edinburgh are flourishing.
there's a potential audience, the challenge is to attract it to the
I am also
very keen for us to deliver a rolling breakfast time business news on
BBC FOUR. Just as interest in politics has waned in recent years interest
in business has grown. I don't think British television has yet caught
up with that.
will be developed out of BBC Knowledge. But again it will have a significantly
we plan to spend £130 million a year on BBCs THREE and FOUR.
channel will be BBC News 24. While not a favourite of Rupert Murdoch
or Gerald Kaufman I happen to like it and believe in its future.
obvious to me that the world's biggest news gatherer, the BBC, needs
a 24 hour news service as part of its channel mix.
this is how the viewer will watch news and I believe it's the BBC's
responsibility to provide news in the way people will want to receive
the value of BBC News 24 when reporting the Concorde air crash in Paris.
Instead of a news flash on BBC ONE, we simply switched to the BBC News
24 service. That's the first time that has happened, but it is the pattern
for the future.
we plan two new childrens' services to be played in the daytime on the
channels occupied by BBC THREE and BBC FOUR in the evenings.
be for pre-school children and the second for children aged between
six and 13.
have separate identities from BBC THREE and BBC FOUR, if only to enable
them to be easily found in the children's section of the electronic
half of all children live in multi-channel households where for much
of the time they are watching predominantly American-owned channels,
largely showing American programmes.
they, and their parents, at least have the option of choosing British
childrens' programming on channels free from advertising? We believe
when our childrens' programming is available on BBC ONE and BBC TWO,
children in multi-channel homes still choose to watch it ahead of the
cable and satellite alternatives even though you cannot easily find
it on the electronic programming guide.
done preliminary research on our proposals for BBC THREE, BBC FOUR and
the childrens' channels and the response has been very positive.
we cannot go ahead with these without further consulting the public
and then seeking the approval of the Secretary of State. We plan to
do both this autumn.
we do plan to continue with BBC Parliament on the same basis as now,
which means it will be fully available on digital satellite and cable,
but digital terrestrial homes will only receive an audio signal.
then, is our proposed channel portfolio. Together the channels will
deliver the BBC's core aims.
carry predominantly British original productions. All will make a contribution
towards achieving our educational goals which I regard as one of the
principal aims of my period as Director-General.
include a broad news and current affairs agenda, and all will carry
challenging factual programmes.
over time each channel will develop its own personality and will increasingly
be aimed at particular target audiences.
So is all
this public service broadcasting? I believe it is. The BBC's role in
our society will always be complex – we're the guardian of impartiality
and political independence, we're arguably the country's most important
cultural organisation, we're a major player in the world of education,
and increasingly we're Britain's leading global media player.
the digital era I believe the BBC's single most important role will
be to make possible the production of great British programmes.
strategy is a means of achieving this – a way of commissioning,
producing and broadcasting original British programmes of all kinds
on a mix of channels which will make sense to audiences in the digital
the channels will inevitably change – perhaps in ways we can't
yet foresee - but the commitment to creating exciting British programmes
every audience in the world prefers to watch programmes which reflect
its own culture, its own lives, interests and passions.
the UK, with our long history of quality programming for both minority
and general audiences, this is particularly the case.
past forty years both the BBC and the commercial sector have contributed
to building a vibrant British television production industry across
a broad range of programming.
to repeat what I said earlier, and it bears repeating, the market is
changing. I've talked about what this means for the BBC but it could
have more dramatic consequences for commercial television.
here tonight, none of us can be sure that advertiser-funded television
will, in a decade's time, be able to continue to play its part in funding
and producing the full range of high quality television.
fragmentation alone will gradually erode the current revenue base of
Britain's commercial channels. If in the commercial world you lose share
year after year, in the end you either change your cost base dramatically
or fall off the cliff.
you combine channel fragmentation with the introduction of new technology
which makes recording programmes and then skipping the ads very easy,
the medium-term economics of ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 start to look
according to recent research, two-thirds of all viewing in TiVo homes
in the USA is of recorded programming and nearly 90% of TiVo viewers
spin through the ads.
funded television starts to struggle, the responsibility for the commissioning
and production of British programming will fall increasingly to the
why I believe the public service role of the BBC could well be far clearer
in ten years time than it is today.
up then. We've started our digital journey. We've changed the structure
inside the BBC, we're making considerably more money available for programming
and we've got a coherent plan for our channels.
alone is not enough. Making television is a creative process and if
we really aspire to be the engine of a new era of great British production
in all genres of programming we have to be able to attract the best
talent to work with us, both inside and alongside the BBC.
area of programming we need people who are passionate about their subject
- be it opera, science, comedy or any one of a dozen others.
creating inside the BBC an environment in which talented people can
I do understand
why people look back to some earlier periods at the BBC as a golden
age for programme makers. They were. But the world has changed and changed
dramatically and going back is not the answer, even if it was possible.
It never is.
time to take down the portraits in the Council Chamber, not as an act
of disrespect to the past but as an act of faith in the future. Luckily
that's not my decision.
time to find a new boardroom with plenty of windows so that we can embrace
the outside world, not shut ourselves off from it.
It is certainly
time for us to take the flame of public service broadcasting and use
it to inspire a new generation of talented British programme makers.
me end by reminding you of my rather simple definition of the purpose
of the BBC in the digital age. It is to make and commission great British
programmes. Everything else is secondary.
we'll fail – inevitably it's a creative process – but our
ambition must never waiver. That is what will make the BBC special in
the new media age just as it has been special throughout its history.
to end by paraphrasing perhaps the most colourful politician of our
the programmes stupid".