Television

BBC to be smaller but fitter in six years: DG Mark Thompson

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MUMBAI: UK pubcaster the BBC has unveiled a radical programme of reform which it claims will not only continue to deliver the highest quality content to audiences but will also make it available when and how they want it.

Following approval by the BBC Trust, the six-year plan will deliver a smaller but fitter organisation. Every part of the BBC will be required to make efficiency savings, with every penny freed up reinvested in high quality, distinctive content and the way audiences consume it.

The plan, 'Delivering Creative Future' rests on three fundamental propositions:

A focus on quality – to provide fewer but better, more innovative and more distinctive programmes.

A digital step change – to offer audiences programmes wherever and whenever they want them – from iPlayer to My BBC Radio, audiences will be able to find, play and share BBC content. To help deliver this ambition, largely separate TV, radio and web news operations will integrate into one of the world's most advanced multimedia newsrooms.

A smaller BBC - which will provide best value to audiences.

BBC DG Mark Thompson told staff, "Media is transforming. Audiences are transforming. It would be easy to say that the sheer pace of this revolution is too fast for the BBC. That for us to do what other media players are doing – integrating newsrooms, mixing media, exploiting the same content aggressively across different platforms – is just too radical ... but I think we can see both here and around the world the price you pay for taking what looks like the safe option.

"I've devoted almost my whole working life to the BBC, much of that not as a suit but as a rank-and-file programme-maker. I love the BBC and what it stands for. I care too much to see it drift steadily into irrelevance."

Over the next six years, the BBC will focus particularly on enhancing quality output in journalism, drama, knowledge and comedy programming.

The BBC claims that tough choices have been necessary, against the backdrop of the licence fee settlement, to deliver these plans. From the raft of detailed proposals, the headline efficiency savings and financial reprioritisation decisions approved by the Trust are:

Meeting demanding efficiency targets of three per cent per year for the period.

Making 10 per cent less originated programming in television by 2012/13, cutting lower impact programming to focus on fewer, higher quality, programmes.

A radical reform of factual programme-making to ensure a sustainable in-house production base which will maintain this output at the heart of the BBC.

In the Journalism group, which includes News, Nations and Regions, Global News and Sport, tackling duplication by bringing services together into a market-leading tri-media news production operation and promoting greater multi-media working.

A decision, approved separately by the BBC Trust, to reduce the size of the property portfolio in west London by selling BBC Television Centre by the end the financial year 2012/13.

A range of earlier proposals for new activities amounting to £1.5 billion over the next six years have been dropped, including four full new local radio stations, and there have been cuts to the budget for BBC Three (£10 million) and its new teen service.

Overall the BBC will make approximately 1,800 redundancies by the end of the period. The BBC expects to close an estimated 2,500 positions between now and 2012/2013, with the areas of News and Factual production most affected. The impact on staff will be significantly lessened by fresh investment that will create new jobs and by natural staff turnover.

Summarising what these plans would mean for the BBC by 2012/13, Thompson told staff that "there will be a smaller BBC, but one which packs a bigger punch because it is more focused on quality and the content that really makes a difference to audiences. And it will be a BBC which is fully prepared for digital".

BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons said, "All of us at the BBC have constantly to remind ourselves that the guaranteed and privileged funding at our disposal is coming from people who have no choice but to pay it. This is the public's BBC and the public pays for it with the licence fee. And those same people have made it absolutely clear that they want quality, value and something a bit special in return. After six months of very detailed work by the management and rigorous testing and challenge from the BBC Trust, we are confident that the plans we have approved today will safeguard the core values of the BBC at a time of radical and accelerating change in technology, markets and audience expectations."

The BBC Trust says that it is confident that the management's strategy should safeguard the core values of the BBC at a time of radical and accelerating change in technology, markets and audience expectations. Inevitably, there are difficult choices to be made, heightened by a tight funding settlement. But at the heart of the strategic plan remains a firm commitment to the delivery of the BBC's public purposes through high quality and distinctive creative content. It includes efficiency savings to free up resources for programming and measures to reprioritise spend to extract greater value for audiences.

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