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Putting Quality First

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Today I'm going to set out the conclusions of a piece of strategic thinking we've done over the past few months. We're calling it 'Putting quality first'. Last summer, the BBC Trust and I agreed to formulate proposals for the shape and direction of the BBC in the second half of the Charter from 2012 to 2016.

You may have read plenty of speculation of some of the specific recommendations of this review. This morning I will be giving clarity on the detail, but also putting the review in the proper context. The proper context is not: how big should the BBC be? The right question is: what is the BBC for? Get the answer to that right and everything else - editorial priorities, size and scope, role online - everything else flows from it.

The BBC has one mission: to inform, educate and entertain audiences with programmes and services of high quality, originality and value. That is not up for debate. What today is about is how we are going to deliver that mission.

The external environment has changed beyond recognition over the last two years - explosive growth in digital, big changes in audience behaviour and a commercial sector facing real strain and new pressures. It is exactly because the media is changing so fast that we must articulate our public service mission and our values more clearly and consistently than ever before. We must explore new ways of delivering our mission - and of ensuring that the benefits of digital can be enjoyed by all. There can be no turning back on our digital journey.

We therefore have to change how we deliver and fulfil our core purpose. But these reasons alone do not explain why we will today set-out our new strategy. The BBC needs to acknowledge that we must also change the way we behave and act. As broadcasters and newspapers bump into each other online and on other platforms the strain has increased.

We also have to recognise the profound challenges facing much of commercial media. And that, while some attacks made on the BBC are destructive and baseless, others represent legitimate concern about the boundaries of what we do, and about our future public service and commercial ambitions. We need to listen more closely than we have in the past to these. We have not always been clear enough about our boundaries or recognising where the market should lead. We now need to create more space for others. We can't do everything and, after years of expansion of our home services, we propose some reductions.

Our new strategy addresses all these issues. Firstly and most importantly, it will bring an unprecedented focus on high-quality programmes. Quality is our raison d'être. The BBC exists to deliver to audiences in the UK and around the world, programmes and content of real quality and value - content which audiences would never enjoy if the BBC did not exist.

We will refocus licence fee investment around five clear priorities: the best journalism; inspiring knowledge, music and culture; ambitious UK drama and comedy; outstanding children's content; and events that bring communities and the nation together. We will focus on the areas which most clearly build public value and which are most at risk of being ignored or under-invested in by commercial players.

The BBC will live or die by the quality of its programmes and content. We will retain an unswerving, unwavering, unflagging focus on quality. To ensure we do, we are committing to unprecedented investment in high-quality, original UK content. We will do this in part by reducing the cost of running the BBC and reducing spending on programmes from abroad. Carefully selected acquisitions are valued by audiences but our priority is original, UK content.

We will also deliver a more focused BBC doing fewer things better and leaving space for others by setting clearer boundaries. It will pledge new ways of guaranteeing access to licence fee payers to see and hear our content first and for free. And we will deliver greater value by making the licence fee work harder for the wider economy.

But the strategy review will only be a start. I want things to change further at the BBC. My ambition is for us to become more confident and proud of the fact that we exist to be different. Our purpose is not to make money, it is to enrich people's lives by capturing the essence of Britain today and making sure everyone can access excellence in programmes and content whoever they are.

Some critics will always say this is not enough and will never stop in trying to further erode the BBC - they will be disappointed by what we have announced today. Our loyalty and prime responsibility will always be to our audiences - we know they want a strong BBC, clear about its purpose and delivering services they love, value and can be proud of.

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