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BBC Trust: Creative quotas ‘not proper competition’

The BBC Trust has concluded that the Corporation’s current ‘Window of Creative Competition’, where in-house and independent producers compete for 25 per cent of eligible BBC TV commissions, is not sustainable in the long term and there is a strong case for increasing competition.

The finding follows a review of the supply arrangements for BBC content for TV, radio and online production, the BBC’s current position in those markets, and the early response to the BBC’s proposals in this area. The Trust heard from a wide range of industry bodies and organisations through a public consultation carried out as part of the review.

Trustees have concluded that changes in the market in recent years such as the substantial growth of the independent production sector, increasing consolidation due to mergers and acquisitions, and the success of independents in winning a large proportion of available commissions, means that the current Window of Creative Competition (WoCC) is not sustainable in the long term.

Trustees believe there is therefore a strong case for reducing or even removing the 50 per cent currently guaranteed for in-house commissions.

The review also looked at BBC radio and online content supply and found there could potentially be benefits to licence fee payers of making changes to these arrangements.

As part of the Charter Review process, the Trust is supposed to receive detailed proposals from the BBC for opening up BBC production to more competition, and the proposed move to BBC Studios. The BBC is also developing proposals for changes to radio and online supply arrangements.

The Trust will consider these proposals fully and expect to open them up to further public consultation, taking account of the views we received during this review and assessing the proposals against five key principles for content supply set out in the report. In due course, the Trust will also begin any specific regulatory processes for changes to the BBC’s commercial services or public service, depending on the nature of the proposals we receive from the BBC.

BBC Trustee Suzanna Taverne noted that the current system had brought “much-loved” programmes from Bake Off to Line of Duty onto UK TV screens. “However, it was made for a production market that’s since undergone a transformation, and we believe that the evidence points towards making changes and increasing opportunities for competition. We are expecting the BBC’s detailed proposals in this area and will assess them robustly; our focus will be on ensuring that audiences continue to be best served and the best ideas make it onto the BBC,” she stated.

The review also confirmed that the BBC is currently complying with all of the quotas and requirements for content supply across TV, radio and online.

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