You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

BBC Chief Warns of ‘Grand National Error’ if More Funding Is Not Found

BBC chief Tony Hall warned Tuesday that repeated cost-cutting and the growing might of global giants such as Netflix and Amazon were endangering the world’s most prestigious public broadcaster, saying it was doubtful that “what we currently do is sustainable with the resources we have.”

The BBC director general called on elected officials and the public to invest more in the BBC – which is funded largely by license fees paid by British households – or else look back in regret several years from now at their “grand national error.” Already, he said, the BBC had endured “a long period of holding back and cutting back,” with budget savings of 4.5% a year over the past decade. New funding sources are imperative.

“We need to find more money,” which could come from “a variety of sources,” Hall said at the Royal Television Society London Conference on Tuesday.

Hall did not elaborate on those potential sources, adding only: “These pressures are really intense for the BBC.” But he declined to describe the situation as an existential threat, saying, “I don’t believe in existential threats.”

He acknowledged what the moderator called the BBC’s ticking demographic time bomb, as younger viewers flee broadcast television. In Britain, Hall said, Netflix’s audience of younger viewers matches that of the BBC and its online service, the iPlayer, combined.

The BBC is currently revamping the iPlayer to become a “destination” service, not just a catchup service, said Hall. A few days ago, as part of its new strategy, the pubcaster dropped all episodes of “Killing Eve” onto the iPlayer, for easy binge-viewing, at the same that it aired the series’ opening installment on TV. (“The disruptor-in-chief, the BBC. Who would’ve thought? – busting its normal model completely,” Jane Turton, the head of All3Media, said earlier during the conference.)

The BBC is also aiming to overhaul its iPlayer Radio app, turning it into “BBC Sounds,” with more audio content available on demand. Hall has, ironically, described it as creating “the Netflix of the spoken word.”

Echoing other British television executives, Hall advocated a more level playing field for traditional broadcasters against the streamers, which are not subject to the same legal obligations when it comes to taxation, terms of trade and production quotas. “That needs re-balancing,” he said.

Hall has also spoken frequently in recent months about the challenges posed by the OTT players, particularly the threat he perceives that they present to locally flavored content as they pursue glittery shows with international (though mostly American) stars and global appeal. Netflix and Amazon each spend more on content annually than the combined spending of British public-service broadcasters ($3.3 billion), he said.

“There will always be content, but there won’t always be British content,” Hall said. “There is an impact on society. The content we all produce is not just an ordinary consumer good. It helps shape our society, it brings people together, it helps us understand each other, and it creates an incredibly powerful shared narrative….

“We have a special duty to make programs about British people and British culture,” he said, adding: “We can’t expect the global media giants to do so.”

More TV

  • A.P. BIO -- "Melvin" Episode 208

    'AP Bio' Canceled After Two Seasons at NBC

    “AP Bio” has been canceled at NBC. Series creator Mike O’Brien shared the news with fans on Twitter, writing that “This has been my favorite project of my life.” In the single-camera comedy, Glenn Howerton portrayed a disgraced Harvard philosophy scholar who lost out on his dream job and was forced to return to Toledo, [...]

  • James Holzhauer $2 million

    'Jeopardy!' Champion James Holzhauer Hits $2 Million Winnings Milestone

    This current “Jeopardy!” player has just won over $2 million on the popular game show. Who is James Holzhauer? The 34 year old professional sports gambler from Las Vegas has hit a “Jeopardy!” milestone by becoming only the second person in the show’s history to win over $2 million in regular season play. Holzhauer won [...]

  • Kanye West Shares a Memory of

    Kanye West Shares a Touching Memory of His Mother in Letterman Interview

    In a preview of David Letterman’s interview with Kanye West, which begins streaming next Friday, May 31, the musician’s wife Kim Kardashian West, tweeted a clip of him sharing a touching memory of his mother, Donda, who died in 2007 after a surgical procedure. While his wife looks on smiling, West answers Letterman’s question about [...]

  • CNN Lays Off Some Health Journalism

    CNN Lays Off Some Health Journalism Staffers

    CNN has laid off a handful of staffers from its health-journalism unit after deciding to place its health, climate and Southeastern newsgathering operations under a single aegis. ” As part of the normal course of business, our newsgathering team made a small restructure earlier this week that ultimately impacts 6-7 employees within CNN’s Health Unit,” [...]

  • Henry Ian Cusick

    'Lost' Star Henry Ian Cusick Signs With Buchwald (EXCLUSIVE)

    Henry Ian Cusick, best known for playing Desmond on the hit ABC series “Lost,” is signing with talent agency Buchwald for representation. Cusick also starred in the CW sci-fi/drama “The 100” and was most recently seen in the Fox series “The Passage.” His other notable television credits include “Scandal,” “24,” “Fringe,” “The Mentalist,” “Body of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content