Advanced Television

BBC White Paper: Industry reaction

May 13, 2016

By Colin Mann

A number of industry commentators have expressed their view on the Government White Paper – A BBC for the future: a broadcaster of distinction – including Professor Steven Barnett, Professor of Communications at the University of Westminster, who describes the announcements about the future of the BBC as “profoundly worrying for anyone who cares about the BBC’s independence from government interference and its creative freedom”.

According to Barnett, to allow government ministers to appoint up to half of the BBC’s unitary board, which will be making vital strategic and editorial decisions, is “wholly inappropriate” for an independent public broadcaster.

“Coupled with new powers for the National Audit Office to investigate any aspect of the BBC’s activities (including its journalism), and a ‘mid-term’ review with as yet unspecified government powers, these proposals are a recipe for potential state intervention in the BBC on an unprecedented scale,” he contends.

“Moreover, new powers given to Ofcom to investigate any aspect of BBC services which might impact commercial services – as well as the new obligation for ‘distinctiveness’ across all services – could impose significant constraints on the BBC’s creative freedom to make high quality popular entertainment programmes,” he warns.

“While it is good news that the BBC’s financial security has been guaranteed for another 11 years, BBC supporters and parliamentarians should strongly resist proposals that will compromise the BBC’s international reputation as well as its ability to command huge public affection,” he concludes.

According to Haydn Jones, Account Managing Director, Fujitsu Media team, the Government’s call for the BBC to create ‘distinctive content’ highlights the changing demands that are being placed on broadcasters and media companies. “Historically, the BBC has been synonymous with high-quality content; this has been its heritage and how it has built a relationship with its audience. However, today’s consumers no longer just want great content, they also want it to be personalised to their individual tastes,” he notes.

“To meet these demands, it’s vital that media companies invest in data and analytics services that give them a complete view of their audiences. It’s the analytics piece that is key – having data for the sake of data is useless. Media organisations need to ensure that they are also analysing the data to ensure that are turning this information into actionable insights that allows them provide their customers with the content services they want. Broadcasters that do this will maintain their relationship with their customers, which will ultimately futureproof their business,” he suggests.

“The BBC is making strides in this area, with it using data from Twitter and Facebook on top of the data it has from people who have signed up for BBC iD. It will be able to tailor the content it provides specifically to its audience and ensure that it delivers what they demand. Other media organisations need to learn from this, or risk losing ground to competitors or new disruptors such as Netflix and Amazon,” he advises.

UK trade body the Digital Television Group (DTG) has welcomed the White Paper and applauded the long term charter which it says offers stability for the industry and certainty for the consumer.

“The DTG recommended a Technology Advisory Board in its submission. This would provide expert insight into the long-term technology issues facing the industry, and we welcome the reference to it in the White Paper” it says.

“The DTG has pioneering industry collaboration in Ultra High Definition (UHD) with the UK UHD Forum, and we note the White Paper’s recognition of the role the BBC has played with partners, such as the DTG, in the development of such standards,” it adds.

“The White Paper encourages the BBC to improve collaboration with others in technology, and the DTG looks forward to supporting the Corporation as it does so,” it states.

Richard Lindsay-Davis, CEO of the DTG, said: “The BBC helped create the DTG in 1995. And as a long term industry partner, we look forward to constructively working with the Corporation as it continues to innovate in technology. This is clearly in the interest of the consumer and the digital television industry.”

Meanwhile, Editor-in-Chief Nick Snow, in his ‘Off Message’ blog, suggests the Government may have ducked a row over the BBC.

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