BBC boss promises myBBC digital revolution will protect personal data

Lord Hall was discussing BBC's future plans

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Tony Hall, the BBC director-general, has promised that the corporation will be “incredibly careful” with the personal data from viewers which it will collect to help launch a new personalised digital service incorporating online recommendations.

In a speech setting out the BBC’s future plans, Lord Hall of Birkenhead, said: “In future, we will have a new tool. Individual data. The BBC lags the industry here but we are getting our act together.

“The potential is huge. Letting our audience become schedulers. Giving you the health news that you need, based on data you choose to share with us. This is the start of a real transformation – the myBBC revolution. How to reinvent public service broadcasting through data.”

Lord Hall said that sensitive data, such as people’s health concerns, would not be shared with any commercial bodies. “You have got to be incredibly careful with people’s data,” he said after the speech. “We’re not trying to sell anyone anything.”

“We’re saying to you as citizens, if you like Wolf Hall, you might like to watch our series on the Plantagenets or read an interview with [author] Dan Jones about The Hollow Crown series. How can we use the data we gather in a benign way to improve the service we give our public?”

Lord Hall confirmed that the BBC welcomed a proposal by the Commons media select committee to replace the traditional licence fee with a universal household levy, which would capture the 500,000 households who claim not to watch live television via a set or digital platforms.

“I support the idea because it’s another way of ensuring that the licence fee is modernised,” he said. “We’ve said let’s close the loophole so that people pay the fee even if they only watch catch-up television.” Lord Hall said he believed the licence fee will “go beyond” the 10-year life-span given to it by the MPs’ committee.

He called the licence fee “profoundly democratic” because the costs of an ambitious series like Wolf Hall are spread equally across the population.

Lord Hall added that Rona Fairhead, the chair of the BBC Trust, who is being paid £10,000 a day by the scandal-hit bank HSBC, has made no attempt to speak to him about the corporation’s coverage of the story, or to interfere in the BBC’s journalism.