The BBC will deliver £880 million ($1.21 billion) of annual savings this year, more than its target of £800 million ($1.1 billion), and has achieved this ahead of schedule, it was revealed it its yearly plan.
The plan also projects that ongoing savings will rise above £950 million ($1.31 billion) for the next financial year. The corporation’s previously stated plans of reducing headcount is also on track, with 900 “public service” staff opting for voluntary redundancy, by the 2021/22 financial year, the plan discloses.
The cost cutting also means that BBC Four will now become an archival channel. The plan says that the cost reductions will necessitate “a shift away from commissioning a high volume of lower cost programs on BBC Four, which are less effective at reaching audiences on the channel and on iPlayer.”
The BBC is keenly aware of competition from deep-pocketed global streamers like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV Plus and Disney Plus. “As competition in the media market intensifies and as the sums invested in content by the global giants increase we expect to see a continuation of the ‘super-inflation’ trend that has impacted the whole media industry over the last 10 years,” the annual plan states. “In particular, there is a risk that costs in areas like drama, comedy, and premium factual content continue to rise much faster than the rate of inflation.”
“There is also a risk that other costs, like audio and technology, will increase faster than the rate of inflation as well,” the plan adds. “Taken together, there is a risk that around 30% of our expenditure could be impacted by super-inflation.”
Echoing the sentiments expressed earlier this month by the heads of all the U.K. public service broadcasters, the BBC plan starkly states: “The rise of online media giants like Netflix, Amazon and Disney is putting British story-telling at risk. U.S.-based video services are bringing audiences brilliant programs but that content, while popular in the U.K. and sometimes made in the U.K., is rarely about the U.K. nor primarily made for the U.K. audience.”
“Their focus is to use the U.K.’s brilliant creative sector to produce globally appealing content, not to add to the cultural story of the U.K.”
The plan points to figures from U.K. media regulator Ofcom that say U.K. broadcasters produce 32,000 hours of U.K. content annually, 22,000 of those by the BBC alone, while the streamers account for just 210 hours. “It is vital that we see ourselves and each other on screen; that we hear our own voices, accents, languages and dialects; that we see our experiences and communities authentically portrayed,” the plan states.
Looking forward, the plan sets out a five point agenda: getting closer to audiences across the country; protecting and nurturing democracy and civil debate by championing impartial news and reflecting all views, opinions and identities across the U.K.; stimulating the U.K.’s creative sector – through spreading TV, radio and online production and commissioning across the U.K.; providing learning and skills to all; and delivering impact across the world.
“We have put plans in place to transform the BBC for the future, we are endeavoring to bring ourselves closer to audiences and we have a huge part to play in the country’s recovery from the pandemic,” said BBC chair Richard Sharp.