BBC to take more risks

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The BBC would seek to meet its audience’s desire for more innovation in programme-making, but cuts in funding meant repeats were also inevitable, Mark Thompson, the director-general, said on Tuesday.

Research for the BBC Trust, which replaced the board of governors earlier this year, said the state broadcaster had failed to live up to public expectations for original television and radio.

Announcing the BBC’s annual report , Mr Thompson said it would be its greatest challenge to correct that situation. “Our audience has said very clearly that they would like more experimentation, more risk-taking and I hope that is something the BBC can rise to,” he said.

But both Mr Thompson and Sir Michael Lyons, chairman of the trust, conceded that there would also be more repeats.

Speaking to the Commons’ culture, media and sport committee , Sir Michael said: “For some people a repeat is just an opportunity to see something they didn’t see the first time around.

“The public are saying to us very clearly that they appreciate the opportunity to have a second opportunity to catch up with something.”

Mr Thompson warned that there would also be more of the kind of repeats that were less popular, using archived programmes, but blamed the fact that the BBC had received less money in the recent licence-fee settlements than it had requested.

“Had we got the licence fee we asked for, the idea of a repeat-free BBC1 on peak time would be possible. I don’t think we can do that.’’

MPs criticised Mr Thompson for complaining at a time when his organisation had a guaranteed income unlike other broadcasters.

The BBC’s audience research, conducted among 10,000 viewers, showed people were not impressed by the corporation’s attempts to innovate in the field of technology, whether through the internet, mobile phones or digital radio.

Sir Michael said it was a difficult balance, because people were not always aware of what they might want in the future and the BBC had to continue with developments to ensure it did not disappoint audiences.

The report showed that the BBC increased its licence fee revenues by 4.6 per cent to £3.25bn, thanks largely to the £5 licence-fee rise, but also through savings in the methods of collection.

Overall spending rose 4.5 per cent to just more than £3bn.

The decline in BBC television’s share of audiences slowed, falling from 34.9 per cent in 2005-06 to 34.3 per cent in 2006-07, compared with a 1.3 percentage point decrease the previous year.

But overall audience share including radio and internet was stable.

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