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Mark Thompson

Speeches

Mark Thompson

Director-General


Delivering Creative Future - address to BBC staff

 


Wednesday 19 July 2006
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Thanks Jeremy and good morning everyone.

 

I'm going to talk this morning about how we can make the Creative Future vision a reality. About how we can make the BBC the most creative organisation in the world, delivering content that our audiences will simply love.

 

To achieve that, we need a BBC with more room for creativity and with commissioning and production more aligned. Yes of course with a level playing field for indies and a WOCC which really does deliver the best ideas, but with BBC Production a full part of the bigger BBC story.

 

We need a BBC ready for digital, for 360 degree multi-platform content creation. Which brings different kinds of creativity together in technology as well as content to deliver what we need in this converging world.

 

And we need a simpler, more open BBC with the licence-fee flowing down simple, direct lines to the right people rather than caught up in complicated negotiations.

 

With simpler organisation charts and clearer responsibilities and fewer management layers.

 

Today is not about further large-scale redundancies or efficiencies.

 

Some of the things I'll announce today will help us become more effective but they won't significantly add to either job-losses or efficiency targets.

 

I'm going to stick to headlines this morning. But there's a lot more detail in Ariel and on Gateway, and Directors across the BBC will have more to say when they brief you later today.

 

I'm certain this is the right moment to go for these changes. From the World Cup to Doctor Who to the Proms, we're in great shape on the air at the moment.

 

We've now got a Charter for the next ten years. And we've got that Creative Future vision.

 

I also hope we're beginning to make progress on another key issue which is about management, especially me and the rest of senior management, listening and taking more account of the views of the whole BBC.

 

We've written today to our unions with a new and final offer on pay and pensions we've made some significant shifts as a direct result of the pensions consultation.

 

I'm holding regular Q&A sessions to which everyone's invited and again those sessions are leading to tangible results: the decision to keep Broadcast Engineering Services inside the BBC is one example.

 

The face-to-face debate about advertising on the international newsite is another.

 

One of the biggest points to come out of the staff survey was the feeling that we don't just use people's talents in the BBC as well as we could.

 

In an industry where everything depends on the best people being able to do the best work, that's not good enough. So we're overhauling training from top to bottom we want it to be more responsive and more practical.

 

And I've asked BBC People to get a really strong pan-BBC attachment system going again, to give far more people the chance to develop their skills and creativity by moving across the organisation. We'll get that going by the New Year.

 

In fact, everywhere in the BBC creativity has got to become a bigger priority for us it's vital if we're serious about Creative Future.

 

In the best teams in the BBC, creativity is shared and everyone can join in. It's practical and focused on delivering real value.

 

And it's supported with great information about audiences and technology as well as some real discipline in the creative process. That's what it should be like everywhere in the BBC.

 

This autumn we're going to have two big events involving the whole BBC to concentrate on two of the most important aspects of creativity: a storytelling day because virtually all the content we produce involves storytelling of one sort or another; and an audiences festival, devoted to raising awareness of all the different audiences we serve.

 

We want everyone, whether they work directly in content or not, to have a chance to take part in these two events.

 

We're going to put creativity at the heart of our training strategy amazingly it's the first time the BBC's ever tried to do that with a new Creativity and Audiences Training Board.

 

And we're going to relaunch the Creative Network to help teams who want to boost their capabilities in developing and delivering the best new ideas through a more disciplined approach to creative development.

 

I've asked Alan Yentob to lead this work, chairing both the Creative Training Board and Creative Network as well as chairing the board of BBC Films and a new Arts Network which will pull together arts programme-makers from the across the BBC. He'll also continue to lead BBC Talent.

 

Alan's fingerprints have been on so many of the BBC's great creative successes over the years and no one has a greater claim to be the BBC's Creative Director. That's why I've asked him to focus on this role.

 

But let's turn now to the question of how we shape the organisation to deliver Creative Future.

 

Here's the present BBC structure with those famous petals. Flatter and less hierarchical than the old structure and with a real emphasis on One BBC.

 

But still lots of different silos, broadcasting and production in entirely separate divisions and 'new media' on its own something which feels like an anachronism now.

 

When we started to debate structure and it's a debate which has involved literally hundreds of people across the BBC we began with a very simple picture of what we're trying to do.

 

Everything begins with audiences. They own the BBC and they should inform everything we do.

 

We deliver content to those audiences in return for the licence-fee and that content-creation is itself supported by technology and the development of new ways of reaching the public with new services and new devices.

 

Finally all this activity needs to be supported by brilliant central and commercial services.

 

So here's our new model for the BBC. In the middle, MC&A.

 

Around it three new cross-media content groups: Journalism, Audio & Music and BBC Vision.

 

Next a division with a new name and a significantly different mission: Future Media & Technology [FM&T].

 

And around that whole cluster, three specialist pan-BBC divisions Operations, BBC People, BBC Finance and Worldwide and Resources.

 

MC&A give us our audience insights and those insights need to be at the start of the creative conversation informing our thinking and choices and our output.

 

So I see MC&A as a creative division, shaping, building and driving our future relationship with all our different audiences.

 

I want Tim Davie and his team to work more closely with all the content areas, the Creative Director and the division that we are now calling Future Media & Technology.

 

Let's turn to that division now. It's 'Future' because we believe that it should focus on what comes next in terms of technology and services, building on the insights and successes Ashley Highfield and his team have already given us.

 

Much of what we call 'new media' is really present media and it belongs in the main content divisions alongside linear TV and radio.

 

There are two big changes in the way we handle non-linear output and technology across the BBC.

 

Responsibility and funding for non-linear content is going to go straight to the content divisions all the funding for Children's websites, for instance, will go straight to Children's.

 

The main focus of Ashley and his team will be on developing new ways for audiences to find and use our content with a focus on search and navigation and metadata, on demand, mobile, the whole challenge of Web 2.0 as well as overall hosting of our website.

 

Technology is going to be key to our future so the second big change for FM&T is that we're going to pull all of our technologists around the BBC into a single team with a single technology budget.

 

We need to be able to set strategic priorities across all our ideas for audiences and then deliver them as fast as we can by concentrating our best technology talent on them and opting, wherever possible, for common systems and standards.

 

But we also know that technology works best in the BBC when it's really close to the business and when the technologists are sitting right next to the content people.

 

So, once the priorities are set, we expect the technology teams to be out there in the content groups working with their colleagues as now.

 

Ashley will have three new future media and technology controllers, one for each of the content groups, who will make sure that each group gets the talent and support it needs, and who will help make sure that our key future media technology projects work in tandem with our editorial vision and plans.

 

Getting this balance right between clear central direction and really effective local team-working is tricky but really important: we're going to involve all the stakeholders over the next couple of months to make sure we get the implementation right.

 

Technology is a great creative resource for the BBC we need it to flourish and grow in confidence.

 

Let's move to those three big content groupings. The aim here is to simplify the journey of getting great content ideas from the independent sector and in house from concept to delivery to audiences.

 

But we also need to find ways to develop content across platforms what we're calling 360 degree commissioning and production and to avoid duplication.

 

Let's look at Journalism first. Here we're trying to build on success.

 

The idea of gathering the journalism family BBC News, all of our brilliant teams across Nations & Regions, Global News under the overall charge of Mark Byford and supporting them with the Journalism Board has worked well - all our journalism across audio, video and text, at local, national and global levels, together for the first time in the BBC's history.

 

Now we're adding Sport which has so many things in common with news and journalism to this group, and Roger Mosey as Director of BBC Sport will join the Journalism Board.

 

The whole group will of course have a responsibility to deliver across all platforms and I hope that we will also see collaboration across the four divisions and movement of talent and ideas around the group.

 

Let's turn to Audio & Music.

 

The aim of this group is to deliver not just network radio, but audio content for all platforms from on-demand in the home to podcasts and mobile phones and also to lead the music strategy for the whole of the BBC.

 

Again, we're trying to build on the success that Jenny Abramsky and her team have already had in developing brilliant new services like Radio Player and the digital radio networks while guiding the BBC's very first service to new peaks of performance and excellence.

 

Finally, let's have a look at BBC Vision.

 

360 degree content creation, delivering for our linear television channels but also for all the new on-demand and web-based platforms needs to become practical reality rather than just rhetoric and this new grouping will enable us to do that.

 

It will bring together three existing divisions Drama, Entertainment and Children's, Factual & Learning, and Television, and three central activities for the BBC audio-visual commissioning, services, and production.

 

I'm certain that Jana Bennett whose career has included a brilliant and long track record in production as well fantastic work with our TV portfolio is the right person to bring this new group together.

 

This is how we think it should work. We want the best ideas, the best programme and content-creating talent from wherever it comes.

 

So we want a strong, confident properly-aligned in-house production arm, BBC Production which now, for the first time, has a 50% guarantee acknowledged by the outside world.

 

We also want access to the best of independent production and we want them to have total confidence in our commissioning system.

 

Next we want a group of commissioners who really do think 360, commissioning the website, say, or the mobisode at the same time as the TV programme or vice versa because we think more and more ideas will start in the digital space.

 

So again we're creating some big new jobs: controllers of BBC Fiction which will commission drama and comedy; BBC Knowledge who will look after the whole of factual and learning but in particular will be charged with bringing the Creative Future vision of knowledge-building to life; and BBC Entertainment which will look after entertainment of every kind.

 

They'll be joined by Richard Deverell and BBC Children's.

 

All of these controllers will have the budgets to deliver the BBC's complete audio-visual strategy in their area and they'll work in ways which will also include their opposite numbers in Audio & Music and Nations & Regions.

 

The Controllers of Commissioning will also, of course, work with the channel controllers and the other teams working in the Services part of BBC Vision.

 

TV Channel Controllers will still have a 'tick' to confirm all the proposed commissions for their channel but Services will provide the content for a range of audio-visual led services, not just our linear channels.

 

This is what BBC Vision will look like as a group. There are the 360 degree commissioners. There is the Services area with both the channel controllers and the digital services. And here is BBC Production with the new post of Production Head.

 

As many of you will know, John Willis has taken the decision to move on from the BBC but in looking at how we organise ourselves within that new production area we'll build on the work that John has done in F&L already.

 

Keith Scholey will work with John and following his departure to lead F&L through the transition.

 

The WOCC the area of our output in which in-house and independent producers compete for commissions - should be, and will be, a zone of open creative competition.

 

But for the half of our output which is guaranteed to our in-house teams, we want to give far more control and flexibility to in-house production than is currently the case.

 

Each commissioning controller will involve key creative leaders from production as well as key indies in the development of strategy.

 

The Production Head will also for the first time have an overview of network production in the nations as well.

 

Network production in the nations is set to grow again it's vital that these teams feel a full part of the wider content family.

 

I passionately believe in BBC Production and I believe it's going to be critical to the success of the whole BBC.

 

We also need to build the confidence of the independent sector in the integrity and fairness of our commissioning system.

 

Governors have made clear to me that these planned organisational changes must not prejudice the BBC's commitments in this area.

 

So there will be clear safeguards to ensure the system and the WOCC are fair:

 

The commissioners, as now, will have nothing to do with the management of in-house production;

 

As now, they will be physically separate from producers;

 

There'll be a new specific responsibility for overseeing commissioning compliance and making sure the whole system is fair. That will sit within Caroline Thomson's area and have a direct line to me;

 

And the new BBC Trust will regularly review the whole system.

 

OK, let's turn from content to the rest of the BBC and I'd like to begin with Worldwide which I have to say is on something of a roll at the moment.

 

We've streamlined and focused it in line with the Commercial Review and we're on course virtually to more than double profits.

 

But we're developing a far more ambitious strategy for Worldwide both here and around the world.

 

That and resolving the future of Resources means a very intense few months ahead for Worldwide and its Chief Executive, John Smith.

 

That's why John and I have agreed that he should devote all his energies to our commercial businesses and relinquish his responsibilities in the public service BBC.

 

From the 1st October, Caroline Thomson - who has played such a key role in Charter Renewal - will become Chief Operating Officer of the BBC and BBC Workplace, as our Property Department is now called, and the Business Continuity team will join her group which will now be called Operations.

 

Combining the vital areas of strategy, policy, distribution, property, legal and business continuity, Caroline's division will play a leading role in all the BBC's big projects for the future from the development of our editorial vision and service strategy, through to the big infrastructure projects which will shape the BBC and UK broadcasting for the future from BH to digital switchover.

 

Of John's other public service responsibilities, Procurement moves to Finance, and Information & Archives moves to Future Media and Technology.

 

On-demand means that I&A in particular is going to be a critical and an exciting part of our future and it needs to work closely with the teams thinking about search and navigation and metadata.

 

Moving Procurement to BBC Finance will bring the purchasing power and financial management of the BBC sits in one place.

 

BBC Finance is otherwise unaffected by today's announcements, though as everyone there knows, Zarin Patel and her team are already in the middle of a revolution based on all the right themes: simplicity, clarity, speed.

 

BBC People is also facing large-scale change, but it too is not directly affected by today.

 

A few days ago, we announced that Stephen Kelly is joining us as Director of BBC People and he's here today. Steve has an outstanding track-record in leading change.

 

I believe that his appointment and the buy-in it's got from the whole of the executive could mark a real turning-point in the role of human resources within the BBC.

 

Before moving on, I want to say to everyone in Operations, Finance and People: you are as vital to the success of the BBC as any journalist or programme-maker and you deserve as much support and respect as they do. I want to make sure that from now on you get it.

 

The last couple of years have been about very radical changes for many of you. Now I believe that the areas in which you work should be efficient and effective but also enjoyable and creative places to work.

 

And to colleagues in Worldwide and Resources, I want to say: you're vital to our success too.

 

We need a much closer partnership between the public service and commercial sides of the BBC.

 

We're heading towards a critical year in determining the future of BBC Resources and we want to make sure we reach the right conclusions.

 

And of course a successful Worldwide means more re-investment in core BBC output.

 

So those are the key organisational changes.

 

Over the next few months, we'll work on detailed implementation plans and we're going to involve as many people in that process as we can: we know that the people closest to the business often have the best ideas on how to organise it and we want to use those insights.

 

Some of the key new jobs I've announced today the controllers of Fiction, Knowledge and Entertainment and the Production Head in BBC Vision, for instance will be open.

 

We'll appoint people as soon as we can. We'll also implement the major structural changes as quickly as possible.

 

Some like the formation of the Operations division will happen this autumn.

 

Others like the integration of TV, DEC and F&L into the Vision group won't take full effect until next April though we can take the first steps towards it much sooner than that.

 

Wherever you work in the BBC, the leadership in your own division will give you a detailed timetable as soon as they can.

 

I want to end with a different thought. New structures can be part of the answer but we know that no matter how pretty they look on the chart! they can never be a complete solution.

 

Behaviours and values are vital too. Some of the biggest problems we face the often poor and sometimes really bitter relationships between commissioning and in-house production for instance are often blamed on structure but actually come down to the way we treat and respect each other and the extent to which we're prepared to act as partners rather than rivals.

 

In a converging 360 world, this isn't just a question of being nice, it's a question of survival.

 

So our values the BBC Values will be just as important as the organisational changes I've just set out.

 

Simple things. Treat colleagues with respect if you don't then there's no place for you here.

 

Don't meddle or second-guess everyone here has something valuable to contribute to the BBC: do your own job and let others get on with theirs.

 

Know when to work together and when to work alone. Bureaucracy breeds more bureaucracy instead of adding to it, cut through it and make life simpler for all of us.

 

And remember that, although we all feel intense loyalty to our immediate team, we're all also part of a bigger team. Part of One BBC.

 

Now if this doesn't sound like your kind of place, then it's time for you to decide if the BBC is right for you.

 

People and I include senior managers and leaders in this - people who ignore the BBC Values and who would rather fight old battles or just sit on their hands won't prosper anymore.

 

They won't get bonuses, they won't get promoted, and if they won't or can't change their ways, we'll ask them to go. Life's too short and the challenges we face are too big for all of that.

 

But if Creative Future intrigued and inspired you, if you want to play your part in making it a reality, if you want to help build a friendlier, more collaborative, more creative BBC, then the opportunities both for personal development and for collective achievement are better than they've ever been.

 

The future will be bumpy of course it will. There will be moments of uncertainty for all of us. Creating the new BBC will require a lot of effort from everyone. But it's worth it: when we work together, we're unstoppable.

 

Thank you.

 



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