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BBC DG: ‘We can create a Netflix of the spoken word’

Tony Hall, Director-General of the BBC, has suggested that with the Corporation’s output and rich content archive, it could create what he described as “a Netflix of the spoken word”, suggesting that it could be one of the things that would help the BBC carry the full weight of Britain’s culture and values, knowledge and know-how to the world in the years ahead.

Delivering a Keynote speech at the Voice of the Listener and Viewer Conference 2016 in London, Hall noted that the public reaction to an ongoing storyline in long-running radio drama The Archers was a good example of what the BBC can do at its best.

He said the BBC’s traditional public service mission – to inform, educate and entertain – was as pertinent today as it has ever been. “But what audiences actually said was: ‘Do what you have always done best – but do it more, do it even better, and do it in new ways’,” he noted.

He said that in the digital age – and all the technological tools at its disposal – mean that the BBC now has the ability to touch the imaginations of its audiences like never before and, in doing so, to dramatically expand its mission’s reach and impact.

“Traditionally, our role was simply as a broadcaster – sending out information and not getting any back. Now we can listen to our audiences, and get them involved in shaping what we do. We can encourage them to take part, and take action,” he said.

“What we want to create is a BBC that doesn’t just talk to the country, but opens up to it as a partner, enabler and friend. So that we don’t just inform, but engage… Don’t just educate, but enable… Don’t just entertain, but inspire. Something good, for everyone This is our challenge under the next Charter,” he stated.

He said that one of his goals in the years ahead was to strengthen and expand those areas in which the BBC leads the way globally. “News, natural history and drama, yes. But also, education, science and the arts. And audio,” he declared.

“In fact, one of the big challenges I have set my teams is just that: to enhance our global audio offer. The BBC makes the best radio in the world. It is one of our crown jewels, and we have an extraordinary wealth of audio riches at our disposal. But, with the level of excellence we have, are we doing enough to push the fantastic drama, arts, comedy and entertainment we deliver on the world stage,” he wondered.

“With our world-class content, we could use our current output and the richness of our archive to create a Netflix of the spoken word. It’s one of the things that will help the BBC carry the full weight of Britain’s culture and values, knowledge and know-how to the world in the years ahead and say something really important about modern Britain,” he suggested.

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