'Too safe' BBC TV should consider iPlayer charging says Trust Chair
Joseph O'Halloran
| 24 June 2014
Acting BBC Trust chair Diana Coyle has warned that the corporation needs to keep evolving to maintain its relevance and to justify its funding and should consider incorporating on-demand viewing to the iPlayer into any future licence fee.

Speaking at the Polis and British Government event, Coyle celebrated the BBC as part of the fabric of everyday British lives, proclaiming it as a great public enterprise that all of the country owned and cornerstone of thriving creative industries. But, she warned, it must "speak to all of us".

This would be achieved by continuing to develop new technology and responding to changing audience demands and markets. "The BBC must stay attuned to all the ways people increasingly expect to use their media. It will need to provide services online, on-demand, on smartphones – wherever people want and expect to find the BBC," Coyle said. "And it will continue to have an important role in helping people discover new ways of engaging with ideas and creativity too." Yet she expressed worry that despite its renowned independence, as well as its innovation, this fact was "not as secure as it might seem".

Furthermore, after reviewing the BBC's four main television channels in a report to be published in July 2014, Coyle admitted that the BBC TV faced some big challenges, one of which is how to extend the range of new and innovative ideas at the heart of the peak schedule on the flagship BBC One, which many believe can be too safe.

"BBC One is of central importance to the BBC's mission as a universal broadcaster ... The channel has a particular responsibility to get the best possible programmes to the widest possible range of people," she said. "At present, though, and despite its achievements, our research shows an audience concern that BBC One plays it too safe in parts of its peak-time schedule. This covers factual and entertainment programmes, not just drama. The industry experts we've spoken to echo that view. BBC One is greatly appreciated. But it can sometimes feel too predictable. Its viewers expect still more from it. So we will use our report on the TV services next month to set out in more detail what we want the management to do to respond."

Coyle said the twin principles of independence and accountability need to underpin how the BBC is governed and that in its role of making sure that Licence Fee payers got best value for money, the BBC Trust had four clear priorities. Namely, these were to improve the quality, variety and originality of new drama on BBC One; to ensure firm control of overall headcount, including continued reductions in the number of senior managers; to make tangible progress in reflecting better the diversity of the UK population in the BBC's workforce and its output; and to pursue more partnerships with other cultural and creative organisations across the UK.

Intriguingly, Coyle added that in its forthcoming report, the BBC Trust would put forward some ideas about how to incorporate on-demand viewing to the iPlayer into any future licence fee system.