BBC launches fight back against commercial, political 'enemies'

DetailsEditor | 15 July 2015

BBC Director General Tony Hall has hit back at the welter of criticism and cuts that have left the corporation reeling since the UK summer financial statement, reminding the country that the BBC is a service for all.

Hall's comments in the wake of publication of the BBC's annual report were designed to bolster the morale of the corporation as its operational efficiency and very existence have been under unprecedented scrutiny, even attack. Indeed Hall pointed out that the BBC had a primary duty to listen not to the voices of rivals or political enemies but instead to that of audiences who pay for the service. Specifically the DG rejected totally the growing clarion call of some for the BBC to adopt a so-called market-fail model whereby it leaves popular TV to commercial rivals.

"As we enter a period of charter review it's inevitable that there will be much discussion about the programmes we provide," Hall said. "I believe that the BBC should continue to make programmes for all our audiences. Everyone pays for the BBC and it is right that we continue to make programmes for everyone. A BBC that doesn't inform, educate and entertain is not the BBC the public knows and loves."

The BBC Annual Report and Accounts for 2014/15 showed that in 2014/15 the BBC continues to penetrate almost every household around the UK, reaching 97% of adults with highlights including national and international hits Wolf Hall on BBC Two, Poldark on BBC One, Happy Valley, The Fall, and award-winning BBC Three drama Murdered by my Boyfriend. It noted that BBC's digital services had a record-breaking year; the BBC trust approved the move of iPlayer from seven to 30-day catch-up, and in January 2015 iPlayer had its best month on record, with 343 million downloads. The new BBC Weather app reached five million downloads within five months of launch an average of 15 downloads per minute.

Yet with money talking more than ever, the report stressed the savings and efficiencies accrued from the on-going 'delivering quality first' efficiency programme which was on track to save 700 million by 2016/17 with 484 million saved in the current accounting year. This, claimed the BBC, would contribute to a total of 1.5 billion per annum of cumulative annual savings that will have been delivered by the end of the charter period in 2017.

Yet to Hall there is an imminent battle ahead, one for him reflecting the very heart and soul of broadcasting and its future. "The case for the BBC doesn't rest on ideological arguments it rests on this what we do day in and day out," he argued. "Great programmes and great services... But this debate is also shaping up to be a clash between two different views of the future. Because there is an alternative view: that prefers a much diminished BBC. It's a view that is often put forward by people with their own narrow commercial interests or ideological preconceptions."