BBC boss urges Government to consider ‘high stakes’ before funding decisions

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BBC director-general Tim Davie has said the “stakes are very high” as the Government considers the future of the broadcaster’s funding model.

It comes after Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries announced earlier this year that the corporation’s licence fee will be frozen for the next two years.

The minister said she wants to find a new funding model before the current deal expires in 2027 as it is “completely outdated”.

Speaking at the Deloitte Media and Telecoms conference, Mr Davie warned that the Government needs to consider what kind of broadcast environment it wants in the UK when deliberating on the future of the BBC.

He said: “Listen to the public. What are we? Storytellers, a democracy. My biggest thing is the stakes are very high.

“We are not trying to be Netflix, we are trying to be the BBC.

“I believe we will still offer great value for the licence fee.

“We have some choices to make. I think we will still be able to offer a great service.”

Nadine Dorries
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said the BBC’s current funding model is ‘completely outdated’ (Aaron Chown/PA)

On the subject of “levelling up”, the BBC boss said the broadcaster’s biggest challenge is staying “relevant”.

“It’s in our best interest. We want to be relevant, our biggest challenge is staying relevant,” he said.

“Our biggest challenge at the BBC is ‘Are we relevant?’

“Storytelling from the ground up… we are very focused on pushing money out, people out.

“Its all about local economic growth – we are very bullish about that.”

Similarly, Channel 4 boss Alex Mahon said: “Audiences want content from the UK. It’s about how we evolve our business to capture that.

“The reason the landscape is so strong is because of the competitiveness we have here.

“Our focus over the past few years is about how we can make a difference outside of London.”

Earlier this week, the Queen’s Speech at the State Opening of Parliament included the Government’s proposed Media Bill, which outlined its intention to privatise Channel 4.

Recently the broadcaster laid out its alternative plan to being privatised, with proposals which included “levelling up” so it becomes more “northern-based”, with the majority of the workforce to be based outside London.

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Channel 4 chief executive Alex Mahon said audiences want content from the UK (Yui Mok/PA)

Some 300 roles are already based outside London and, under the plan, which was first presented to the Government earlier this year, this would increase to 600 by 2025.

Also during the conference, Ofcom chief executive Dame Melanie Dawes addressed plans for the media watchdog to regulate streaming platforms – which was cemented with the publication of the Government’s broadcasting White Paper in April.

Under the legislation, Ofcom will have powers to draft and enforce a new video-on-demand code, aimed at setting standards for larger TV-like services such as Netflix, ITV Hub and Now TV.

Dame Melanie said: “I really believe that good regulation creates a level playing field that allows the market to operate.

“It is really clear our viewing habits – all of us, mine have changed massively particularly during the pandemic – they are changing hugely, even more so when you look at younger viewers, that is driving change.

“You can see already companies are shifting towards digital content – Channel 4, for example, making real strides in making that leap.”

Dame Melanie added that the newly appointed chairman of Ofcom, Lord Grade, is “really enjoying himself” in his new role.

Next chair of Ofcom
Ofcom chairman Lord Grade is said to be ‘really enjoying himself’ in his new role (Peter Byrne/PA)

She said: “He arrived properly last week, we are talking all the time.

“It is fair to say he is really enjoying himself, he has got stuck in.

“I am delighted to be working with someone with so much experience. I am very optimistic about Ofcom.”

Conservative peer Lord Grade, 79, who is a former television executive, has been appointed until April 2026.

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