In the speech, Davie, who was formerly boss of commercial division BBC Studios, reveals that it is cutting 900 jobs in news and across the nations and regions as it looks to “further reduce duplication, layers and overheads.”
He says the BBC is still “relevant” in millions of people’s lives across the UK but that as it looks to the future, “there is no room for complacency”.
“The truth is that for all our extraordinary efforts there is significant risk. If current trends continue we will not feel indispensable enough to all our audience. We must evolve to protect what we cherish. The evidence is unequivocal: the future of a universal BBC can no longer be taken for granted,” he said. “We have no inalienable right to exist. We are only as good as the value we deliver our audiences, our customers. We must grow that value. That is our simple mission.”
Davie’s speech comes on the same day that the BBC promoted Charlotte Moore, who was also in the running for the DG role, to Chief Content Officer with a seat on the board.
Taking over from Tony Hall, Davie said that his top four priorities are renewing the BBC’s commitment to impartiality, a focus on “unique, high-impact” content, extracting more from online and building commercial income”.
He also ruled out the idea of a subscription BBC “that serves a few” – the BBC is currently funded by a license fee. “We could make a decent business out of it, and I suspect it could do quite well in certain postcodes, but it would make us just another media company serving a specific group. The UK’s creative industries have been a global economic success because of a rather enlightened blend of the free market and smart universal interventions like the BBC, and our landmark museums … open to all. It is a brilliant national success that future generations deserve to benefit from,” he said.
In terms of content, he revealed that with increasing competition, largely from streamers such as the BBC and Amazon, he believes the British public broadcaster is “spreading ourselves too thinly.”
He urged commissioners to “stop things that don’t work” and prevent duplication across different parts of the organization.
He said he would re-allocate funds to where they generate the most value – asking “what we would do if we could only make 80% of our current hours.”
“If we try and do too much we can feel starved of the financial oxygen to breath life into new creative ideas. So we are going to do something quite simple. We are going to look in all areas and identify how we can have more impact by making less,” he said.
Davie added that there were no “short-term plans” to shut any more channels or radio stations but “I do think this moment marks the end of linear expansion for the BBC.”
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