U.K. broadcaster BBC has talked up its value in a “tougher than ever marketplace,” in the words of chair David Clementi, in the organization’s annual report for the 2019/20 financial year.
The BBC is the most-used media organization in the U.K. with an average 41 million people per day interacting with its services in the last year. The 90% of the U.K. population using the BBC each week rose to 94% in March this year during the coronavirus outbreak. BBC iPlayer had a record 4.8 billion requests to stream programs in 2019/20.
According to its results, which cover the year period until March 31, 2020, the BBC collected £3.52 billion ($4.54 billion) in license fees, a reduction of 5% from the previous year, due to planned reduction in government funding of free TV licenses for those over 75 years old.
Overall, the BBC group had a deficit of £119 million ($153.6 million). This was offset by the strong performance of BBC Studios, that grew 14% to a profit of $233.6 million. BBC Studios production was the U.K.’s most commissioned creator of new content in 2019, with 77 new commissions from the BBC and third parties.
However, “some measures are not going in the right direction,” the org said. Headcount has increased from 19,231 to 19,572 and senior leader numbers have gone up from 250 to 253. The BBC will keep a focus on cost reduction so that the public service headcount is smaller.
Addressing the issue of diversity within the BBC during a press conference, director general Tim Davie said there was work to do in this regard and highlighted that the org was striving to get to his stated 50:50 goal of gender parity.
“This annual report tells the story of a BBC that remains of huge value at home and abroad, but is not without considerable challenges,” Clementi said. “Going into the coronavirus crisis the BBC already had, 31% less to spend on U.K. public services, than if the licence fee had risen with inflation since 2010.
“Now the severe impact of COVID-19 means that we have to save an extra £125 million [$162 million] — on top of additional significant savings — in a tougher than ever marketplace. In this context, the BBC must redouble its efforts to serve all audiences, while maximizing commercial revenues and supporting the creative industries’ recovery across the U.K.”
“Our focus must be on making sure we deliver outstanding and unique value to all audiences — those who pay for us and are in effect our customers — in return for their licence fee,” said Davie. “That means we must renew our commitment to impartiality; focus on unique, high-impact content; extract more from online; and, build our commercial income. That is now our focus and challenge going forward. We should take nothing for granted.”