Sunday 18 August 2019

BBC director general warns of ‘serious threat’ to British content

He accuses streaming services Netflix and Amazon of failing to invest their revenues in British programming.

Lord Hall
Lord Hall

By Joe Nerssessian, Press Association

Home-grown British programmes such as Britain’s Got Talent, Strictly Come Dancing and Sherlock are under “serious threat” due to a potential £500 million shortfall over the next decade, BBC director general Tony Hall is to warn.

Addressing the future of content, Lord Hall will caution that global services such as Netflix and Amazon are failing to invest their revenues in British programming as “worrying” findings by consultants Mediatique – published by the BBC – suggested spending on UK programming could fall by half a billion pounds in real terms over the next 10 years.

In a speech in Liverpool on Thursday, he will say: “We have to face the reality that the British content we value and rely upon is under serious threat.”

Global services such as Netflix and Amazon are showing little evidence they are likely to make up the shortfall, according to Lord Hall.


“The reality is that their investment decisions are likely to focus increasingly on a narrow range of very expensive, very high-end content – big bankers that they can rely on to have international appeal and attract large, global audiences.

“Even the most generous calculations suggest they are barely likely to make up half of the £500 million British content gap over the decade ahead. And a more realistic forecast points to substantially less,” he will say.

Netflix reportedly spent £100 million on the first two seasons of The Crown, which returns for its second series later this year and chronicles the life of Queen Elizabeth II.

Claire Foy and Matt Smith's The Crown is up for best drama at the TV Choice Awards

The Mediatique report also suggests that while Sky and BT may have spent huge amounts securing British sports rights, they do not do much to fill the funding gap across other genres or areas such as religion or science and history.

It warns of a damaging impact on UK distinctiveness, risk-taking and innovation.

So far this year, the top five shows are all British: One Love Manchester, Broadchurch, Britain’s Got Talent, Sherlock and Strictly.

In the face of the warnings, Lord Hall will call on the BBC to remain a “bastion of brilliant British content”.

“But to achieve this, we have to recognise that the environment around the BBC has changed dramatically, and we must change in response.

“In the UK we often think of the BBC as a big player, but today the media market is truly global. And in that vast solar system, we are tiny compared to the huge gas giants of the US. And every day they’re getting bigger,” he will say.

“That is why we must continue to innovate, back new ideas, and take creative risks. We will never simply compete on money alone. It is why the reinvention of the BBC for the modern age is so important.”

Lord Hall will highlight the corporation’s launch of commercial production arm BBC Studios – which produces programmes for other broadcasters as well as the BBC – and its challenge to BBC Worldwide in doing more to generate returns for licence fee payers.

He will say a “new golden age for British production” can be kick-started if the industry gets the response right now.

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