Tony Hall, the BBC’s director general, is this week preparing to call for video streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon to be regulated to the same extent as the UK’s traditional broadcasters – or else risk “killing off” British content.
In a speech obtained by UK news outlets that is set to delivered during the Royal Television Society’s London conference on September 18th, Hall will also raise the prospect of moving more BBC staff out of London, while making a pitch for the BBC to find a way to “spend more on the highest-quality content” – a move which could require either more funding for the corporation or cuts elsewhere in its output.
“Beyond the steps the BBC may take, Britain also needs to do more to support the broader PSB ecology. It cannot be right that the UK’s media industry is competing against global giants with one hand tied behind its back,” Hall will say. “In so many ways – prominence, competition rules, advertising, taxation, content regulation, terms of trade, production quotas – one set of rules applies to UK companies, and barely any apply to the new giants. That needs rebalancing, too. We stand ready to help, where we can.”
Hall will use the speech to warn that young British audiences now spend almost as much time watching Netflix as watching BBC television and iPlayer combined.
Highlighting the scale of competition, he will reference studies which found Netflix is spending $8 billion a year on content, Amazon is spending $5 billion (€5.6bn), and Britain’s public service broadcasters combined, including the BBC and Channel 4, are spending just £2.5 billion.
Hall will also say the British media industry is “changing so rapidly and the long-term consequences are so profound” that history will judge its current leaders on how well they responded to long-term challenges, rather than remember the day-to-day successes of particular programmes.
“This isn’t just an issue for us economically, commercially or as institutions,” Hall will say. “There is an impact on society. The content we produce is not an ordinary consumer good. It helps shape our society. It brings people together, it helps us understand each other and share a common national story. And people are hungry for that. They want content that is relevant to their lives, and they want to see people like them on screen.”