Former Endemol U.K. topper Peter Bazalgette has called for the creation of an online public service player in the U.K. and urged that parts of the BBC and all of pubcaster-commercial hybrid Channel 4 be sold to pay for it.
Speaking at a Royal Television Society dinner in London on Tuesday, Bazalgette challenged industryites to think outside the box when it came to funding content.
Calling the new online player, for argument’s sake, Boggle, he said: “The next generation of comedy talent would post their videos — the most-watched would then earn a Boggle bursary. Anyone could post their music on the site and the most listened-to would attract some Boggle funding. Boggle would link the existing offerings of museums, galleries, theatre companies, opera houses and concert halls.”
Bazalgette said the present debate over whether part of the BBC license fee — paid by all U.K. TV watching homes — should go to rivals who make public service content, was too informed by existing mindsets and failed to address the opportunity presented by the Internet.
“We’ve all been facing in the wrong direction and obsessing with the institutions of the old world,” he complained. “Let’s turn round, face the new world and start to imagine the possibilities.”
To breathe new life into the debate, he called for the BBC radio stations, Radio 1 and 2, to be sold off and the privatization of the Corp.’s commercial arm, BBC Worldwide.
As for Channel 4, which is campaigning for a public handout, Bazalgette said any state sub would ruin its independence.
Far better was “a privatization that preserves its character, culture and PSB output.”
But Bazalgette, a former Channel 4 board member who began his career as a BBC program maker, stressed that in an online world it was vital to have a range of public service content and a strong, well-funded BBC.
At the moment “PSB (Public Service Broadcasting) really stands for Publicly Stifled Broadcasting.” he said.
Bazalgette’s proposals come as regulator Ofcom is examining how to preserve pubcasting in an online world.