BBC savings target jumps to £400 million with 1,000 hours of content to be cut

·3-min read

The BBC’s savings target has increased by 40% to £400 million amid high inflation and a licence fee freeze.

In its Annual Plan published on Thursday, the broadcaster said it was responding by cutting 1,000 hours of content commissions across its portfolio, among other measures.

The BBC previously projected it needed to save £285 million by 2027/28 – the end of the current charter period.

It comes on top of a £300 million reinvestment plan announced last May to “better position the BBC for an on-demand world”.

In its Annual Plan the BBC said: “The BBC has focused on efficiencies and the best allocation of resource to prioritise delivery of value to all audiences.

“However, the 2022 licence fee settlement and economic environment, including exceptionally high inflation in the industry, mean our original projected annual savings requirement of £285m by the end of the Charter in 2027/28 has now increased to £400m.

“We will continue to manage our finances prudently.”

The broadcaster added: “While we recognise the licence fee is a privilege, this settlement continues to place significant financial challenges on the BBC at a time of high inflation and media super-inflation.”

The reduction in 1,000 hours is a cumulative figure from across all the BBC’s TV content and largely reflects changes in BBC Four and fluctuations in the sporting calendar, the PA news agency understands.

The figure does not include news output.

The move comes after former culture secretary Nadine Dorries announced last year that the licence fee would be frozen at £159 for the next two years until April 2024 – equating to a real-terms cut in funding for the broadcaster.

The BBC said all these factors had “led to an acceleration of plans to deliver the BBC’s public mission in new ways while delivering savings”.

These include shifting some World Service TV and radio broadcast services to digital, creating a single BBC News channel operation with two feeds for UK and global audiences, and increasing funding for digital news, investigative journalism and “high-impact content”.

The plan also highlights the corporation’s intention to make BBC News more transparent by opening up its workings and invest an additional £50 million in its online services per year by 2025/26.

As part of its Across The UK strategy, the BBC also plans to formally open its north east technology base and recruit for at least 70 roles at its Newcastle campus.

Director-general Tim Davie said: “Our plans outline an ambitious year of creative excellence from the BBC, with trusted news and high quality content to provide the best value for all audiences.

“This year we will bring people together like no other organisation can with the Coronation and Eurovision amongst the highlights.”

Chairman Richard Sharp added: “The BBC’s performance in delivering against its strategic priorities has been outstanding, particularly in such a challenging financial setting and against a backdrop of increased competition.

“This plan sets out how we will best serve all audiences by making the most of our resources in the coming year.”

The BBC has in recent weeks been confronted with a number of controversies.

It faced a boycott by top on-air talent after briefly suspending Gary Lineker from Match Of The Day over tweets criticising the language used by the Government to launch a new asylum policy.

Mr Sharp is also facing pressure to resign amid an ongoing review after it emerged he helped former prime minister Boris Johnson secure an £800,000 loan facility.