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BBC DG warns of service cuts

January 18, 2022

By Colin Mann

BBC director general Tim Davie has warned that the freeze to the TV licence fee announced by Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries will affect the Corporation’s frontline output, and in terms of what services might be cut, said “everything’s on the agenda”.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Davie suggested the funding gap brought about by the freeze would be £285 million in the final year. “Inevitably, if you don’t have £285 million (€340m), you will get less services and less programmes. Now, I still think the BBC can offer extraordinary value for £13 a month,” he asserted.

He argued that the Corporation had made very good progress in terms of cutting costs that don’t affect the licence fee payers in recent years. “We go first to those cuts where we don’t affect our output,” he advised. “We are not at the place where you can never make cuts, but this will affect our frontline output. There’s no doubt about that.”

Davie said that the BBC needed to reshape itself for a digital age. “The media market is moving extremely rapidly,” he acknowledged. “I’m excited about re-engineering the BBC. I think we’re in a good place. We had an excellent Christmas, iPlayer is doing brilliant business for us in terms of the numbers we’re getting through to our digital services.”

“So we’re not just going to put aspic around linear services or say we’re going to keep doing exactly the same thing. We need to reshape the business,” he confirmed.

In terms of future funding models hinted at by Dorries, Davie suggested the BBC would change radically if it became a subscription service, which is one of the suggestions to replace the licence fee system. “Once you’re trying to serve a subscription base and a commercial agenda – and, believe me, I’ve run commercial businesses – it is a completely different situation, because suddenly you are doing things that are there to make profit and make a return to a specific audience,” he noted.

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