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BBC Chair: Hard choices, tough decisions

March 4, 2024

By Colin Mann

Incoming BBC Chair Samir Shah has warned that the Corporation must confront hard choices and tough decisions in what he describes as a “tough financial situation”.

In  a note to all BBC Staff at the start of his tenure as Chair of the BBC Board, Shah said that along with the Board, he was “here to protect and champion the BBC and ensure it has a sustainable future, driven by the values we’re all proud to stand by”.

“Arguably the most important of my responsibilities is to safeguard its independence. Our reputation here, and in the rest of the world, rests on this fundamental concept. It is the duty of the Chair and the Board to protect that independence – and it is a duty I promise to discharge,” he asserted.

Shah said he was joining at a “crucial” time. “Streamers and social media platforms are competing for audiences, and their growth brings new questions for our future: What is the point and purpose of the BBC in this new media environment? Can we stay relevant to the lives of the British people? These are increasingly asked, both at street level and in the corridors of power. The challenge posed by those questions must be demonstrably met. Show, don’t tell, as the saying goes,” he added.

“We must be the home of the most trusted news across the UK and, indeed, the world,” he declared. “We must be the home for showcasing the full range of British culture and talent – geographically, of course, but also in terms of class and thought (in all its diversity), alongside race, gender and disability. And we must also simply be a home. In a world where there are forces fracturing society, we should be a sanctuary for empathy and understanding. We are a thread that binds the fabric of society, a place where people from all walks of life, with every kind of view, can find something to enjoy.”

“All this is made possible because the British public pay for the BBC. In the coming years there is going to be a national debate about how to fund what we do. Whatever our longer-term funding model, there are also nearer-term budgetary pressures and a clear imperative to invest in digital technology now. The way audiences consume content is evolving rapidly and we must adapt and innovate to ensure that the BBC remains relevant and accessible to all. The success story that is our commercial operations will of course help the money go further,” he said.

“But we will still need to live within our means in a tough financial situation. That involves thinking very hard about what we should stop doing or do very differently. My role – and that of the Board – is to work with the organisation as we confront hard choices and tough decisions,” he stated.

“But it’s not all about pounds, shillings, and pence,” he suggested. “As Einstein reputedly said, Not everything that counts can be counted. “And one of those unmeasurable things is how the BBC projects British values, culture, and influence onto the global stage. Taken together – our creative storytelling, our impartial journalism and our global reach – makes the BBC an extraordinary force for good in Britain and the world,” he noted.

“I am delighted to be back and I’m confident that with your collective help, we will ensure the BBC continues to flourish now and for generations to come,” he concluded.

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