BBC ‘risks irrelevance’ unless it adapts to digital age, says director general
The BBC risks irrelevance unless it adapts to changing viewing habits, the broadcaster’s director general has said.
Speaking at the Media & Telecoms Conference this morning, Tony Hall admitted the BBC faces an uphill struggle to keep up with deep-pocketed rivals such as Netflix and Amazon, but insisted public service broadcasters are as important as ever.
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“It’s no wonder streaming has overtaken pay TV for the first time. No wonder that 16 to 34-year-olds spend more than half of their screen time each day watching non-broadcast TV,” he said.
Hall said the BBC must adapt its offering to fit around its viewers’ lives and ensure audiences are getting value for their £155 licence fee, or risk becoming irrelevant. But he said the role of public service broadcasters remains vital.
“In reality, the goals and values that define public service media have become more relevant, more important, not less,” he said.
The TV boss unveiled a string of changes for iPlayer, which he said must lie at the heart of the BBC’s offering in the future. Shows will remain on the on-demand platform for 12 months, while the broadcaster will boost its personalisation and live programming offering.
The comments come after the BBC and ITV revealed plans to launch Britbox, an on-demand service intended to rival streaming giants such as Netflix.
Hall also hit out at regulation, saying it must be updated to reflect the shift from traditional TV to on-demand viewing.
“It can’t be right that – as Ofcom themselves have pointed out – the same programme can be regulated in half a dozen different ways in the UK, depending on who’s hosting it,” he said.
Last year the broadcaster launched its BBC Sounds app, bringing together its radio, music and podcasts, in a bid to attract younger listeners.
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It has also announced plans to cut its flagship News at Ten programme by 10 minutes to create space for a new show aimed at young viewers.
But the corporation still faces tough competition from its wealthy US rivals. Netflix is thought to have spent as much as $13bn (£9.9bn) on original content last year, while BBC’s annual programming budget is just £1.5bn.