BBC director general Tony Hall has argued that though the corporation has made mistakes in the past, it is delivering better value for money than 20 years ago, and said drama is “top of the priority list” in its current budget discussions.
Delivering a speech at the Voice of the Listener & Viewer Conference in London yesterday, Hall said that in real terms the license fee costs viewers less today than it did 20 years ago, but delivers far more services.
“Twenty years ago, we had two TV stations, five national radio stations, and local and nations radio. Now we deliver so much more with four times more television channels, twice as many national radio stations,impressive web services and the iPlayer. That’s what I mean by greater value,” said Hall.
He claimed that in today’s prices, the 1993 licence fee was £147.44 (US$237.43) per household and accounted for 0.25% of GDP (gross domestic product), compared to £145.50 per household and 0.23% of GDP today.
He added that the BBC today accounts for “a much smaller part of the media market,” taking 25% of broadcast revenues compared to 40% 20 years ago. Unlike then, he said the BBC is also now not the largest broadcasting organisation.
“Like any organisation, the BBC makes mistakes and sometimes we have spent money carelessly, or even treated our funding as if in some way it was our own money, rather than yours,” said Hall, citing recent debates about severance payments such as the one made to former deputy director general Mark Byford.
“But just because the BBC has got some things wrong, doesn’t mean it has got everything wrong. Far from it. Take a broader view – look back over the past 20 years, perhaps – and you can see how hard we have worked to achieve value for money.”
Speaking about the BBC’s current content strategy, he said that with high quality dramas coming out the US and Scandinavia, the BBC aimed to “do more, to go further, to challenge ourselves to do better.”
Citing forthcoming productions like Wolf Hall, War and Peace, The Musketeers and Death Comes To Pemberley he said: “We are in the middle of budget discussions at the moment and that’s what I am putting at the top of the priority list.”
“The confidence and commitment we show in drama, I want in music and the arts too,” added Hall.
In terms of news and current affairs, in the coming weeks the BBC will also “be reinforcing our commitment to intelligent, unbiased, accessible coverage at every level – local, national and global”.