The BBC is likely to cut the amount of content it produces rather than cut entire channels in order to make massive savings, according to chief executive Tim Davie, who has had to deflect tricky questions about his relationship with disgraced DJ Tim Westwood.
A major announcement is coming in the next few weeks about how the company expects to save around £1.5bn ($2bn) over the next five years and Davie hinted that the removal of broadcasts on services was the likely direction. He has operated with a policy of “less, bigger, better” since taking office 18 months ago.
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“We will pay less,” he told today’s Voice of the Listener & Viewer conference. “By doing everything on every service, you’re spreading yourself too thinly.”
Cutting entire services such as BBC Three or BBC Four, on the other hand, was rejected almost completely.
“People love to publicly say ‘let’s kill a channel,’ but the truth is, you can shrink content without doing it.”
The key question, for Davie, is how the BBC manages the pivot to digital while having to make these massive savings, which result from a government-imposed license fee freeze for the next two years, before the £159 fee does revert to increasing with inflation.
“How much we do on linear, news, broadcast, and then how well we do on iPlayer is the biggest decision for the BBC,” he explained. “How are we going to provide public service media in the digital age so that people who primarily consume on-demand can access it?”.
Davie is also “optimistic” about the prospects for commercial producer-distributor BBC Studios to bring bigger returns to help ease the savings burden.
He said the company would try to “find other efficiencies to protect what you get for your licensing fees” but “is starting to run out of road.”
The next few months are “really critical” for the organisation, he added, pointing to planned legislation on the prominence of public service broadcasters and, subsequently, the mid-term review of the company’s charter. BBC, for which the government will assess how it manages within its strict civil service. to put back.
“I’ve put together a program for the BBC and it’s very simply about why we’re popular and what’s our strategy?” Davie said.
He had some tricky questions to answer about Westwood, the superstar DJ who was yesterday accused of sexual misconduct by seven women in a joint investigation by The Guardian and the BBC, allegations Westwood strenuously denies.
Westwood spent many years DJing for BBC radio stations but, under pressure, Davie said he had “reviewed our records and saw no evidence of a complaint”.
Calling the testimony of the seven women “powerful and appalling”, he then developed a broader point about corporate culture.
“We are now in a position where we are very clear about the culture,” he added. “If people have evidence that things weren’t followed, bring it to us and we’ll dig and dig. All businesses need to create an environment where [these allegations are] totally unacceptable. »
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