We are not trying to be Netflix we are the BBC… for now: Director general Tim Davie admits broadcaster is ‘trying to stay relevant’ but warns government to consider ‘high stakes’ before making funding decisions
- Director-general Tim Davie admits BBC’s biggest challenge is ‘staying relevant’
- He also insisted Corporation still represents ‘great value for the licence fee’
- Mr Davie previously said that ‘certain groups’ engage less with the corporation
BBC director-general Tim Davie has admitted the broadcaster’s biggest challenge will be staying ‘relevant’ as he warned the Government must consider the stakes before slashing the crisis-hit corporation’s funding.
Mr Davie, 55, made the comments after he was quizzed about ‘levelling up’ at Deloitte’s media and telecoms conference before adding: ‘Our biggest challenge is “Are we relevant?” We want to be relevant.
‘Storytelling from the ground up… we are very focused on pushing money out, people out. It’s all about local economic growth – we are very bullish on that,’ he explained.
He also insisted the BBC still represents ‘great value for the licence fee’, despite recent rows with Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries – who has promised changes to its funding model will be made ‘well ahead’ of its 2027 charter renewal.
Debates over its future funding have raged on amid an exodus of top broadcasting talent after BBC Breakfast presenter Dan Walker joined Jon Sopel, Emily Maitliss and Andrew Marr in walking away this year.
Mr Davie warned that the Government needs to consider what kind of broadcast environment it wants in the UK when deliberating on the future of the corporation.
He also claimed the BBC was not ‘trying to be Netflix’, despite mounting pressure from streaming services such as Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video in recent years.
Thousands of over-55s have swapped their TV guides for a US-provided streaming subscription, with many making the move over during the pandemic.
BBC director-general Tim Davie has admitted the broadcaster’s biggest challenge will be staying ‘relevant’ as the crisis-hit corporation continues to face a myriad of issues
Debates over the BBC’s future funding have raged on amid an exodus of top broadcasting talent after Breakfast presenter Dan Walker joined Jon Sopel, Emily Maitliss and Andrew Marr in walking away this year
Mr Davie also discussed public perception and said the ‘stakes are very high about what kind of society we live in’, in a reference to the BBC’s future funding model.
He said: ‘Listen to the public. What are we? Storytellers, a democracy.
‘My biggest thing is the stakes are very high about what kind of society we live in.’
Mr Davie added: ‘I believe we will still offer great value for the licence fee. We have some choices to make. I think we will still be able to offer a great service.’
The broadcaster had made vigorous efforts to attract the vaunted 16-34 demographic since former BBC boss Lord Hall of Birkenhead instigated a ‘lurch to youth’ in 2020.
Programmes beloved by an older generation, including Eggheads, had budgets slashed or were axed entirely amid a rush to prioritise the ‘lives and passions’ of younger viewers.
After these changes, a 2020 Ofcom report found satisfaction levels with the BBC were waning among older and more middle class viewers.
BBC Three was also part of an £80m relaunch in February in a bid to woo the vaunted 16-34 demographic.
Despite staunch criticism of the move, Mr Davie said the cost was ‘relatively small’ and that the channel acts ‘as a good shop window’ for its content.
Mr Davie also suggested the BBC’s drama budget could be cut and repeats a more common occurrence.
‘We make 31 dramas a year, we’ll probably have to make less,’ he told the Voice of the Listener and Viewer conference.
‘What I’m not willing to do is compromise on quality. You may end up with services like BBC Four, which are great but primarily archive services.
‘Are they repeats? Yes. Are they of value? Yes. We’ll still have thousands of hours of origination, but I would rather do less and protect quality.’
It comes as the BBC is understood to have set aside £50million for market research into people’s viewing habits and how to reach ‘diverse audiences’.
The cash will be used over a four-year period to track what viewers watch and ‘provide an insight from a range of demographic groups’.
A jargon-riddled notice inviting firms to take on the work says up to £42million could be spent on ‘data collection and processing and brand tracking studies’.
A further £7million could go to research sampling ‘harder-to reach, niche and diverse audiences’. The remainder will focus on children’s viewing.
The project, to run from 2023 to 2027, comes after director-general Tim Davie warned of brutal cuts to popular programmes because of the Government’s two-year licence fee freeze.
BBC Breakfast host Dan Walker (pictured left) announced he was joining Channel 5 to be lead anchor on its revamped 5News team earlier this year
His former Breakfast co-star Louise Minchin also left last year as she looked to spent more quality time with her family
BBC veterans Emily Maitlis and Jon Sopel left the BBC for Global, the owners of LBC, to front a new show and a podcast
Earlier this year the BBC denied it was facing a top talent ‘brain drain’, despite losing a number of its star presents.
At least five of its top broadcasters have departed in recent months, with at least four going to the BBC’s direct rivals.
Breakfast host Dan Walker became the latest to join a rival firm earlier this year, when he quit Auntie for Channel 5.
He followed his former co-host Louise Minchin, who quit to spend more time with her family, out of the doors at Broadcasting House.
Leading broadcaster Andrew Marr meanwhile swapped BBC for LBC, along with veterans Emily Maitlis and John Sopel, who also joined Global earlier this year.
Maitlis, who hosted Newsnight, had a series of impartiality complaints against her because of her tweets and on-air comments about the pandemic.
Marr is said to have admitted he was prompted to leave the BBC because of his desire to speak freely on major issues, including climate change and politics.
Leading presenters Andrew Neil and Simon McCoy have also left the BBC in the past year.
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