Go global or face huge cuts, says BBC boss

Director general follows his MacTaggart lecture with a warning of the consequences of not tackling the corporation's £2bn deficit

EastEnders set in a Brazilian favela, perhaps, or an American actor playing Doctor Who? This could be the future of programmes in a new, leaner BBC described yesterday by its director general, who is this weekend wrestling with critical press, worried staff and the threat of a reduced licence fee.

The public broadcaster faces a pension deficit of up to £2bn and future partnerships with American producers in order to make programmes like Wallander to sell around the world, according to Mark Thompson.

He outlined his vision of a smaller BBC yesterday after a pointed MacTaggart lecture in which he said salaries would be reduced and that no star's job was safe in "a period of gut-wrenching change". His MacTaggart speech attacked the Murdoch family's BSkyB for not investing enough in British programming and said that it should pay "retransmission" fees to air ITV, Channel 4 and Five – a riposte to James Murdoch, who last year described the BBC as "unaccountable", "dominant" and "chilling".

At a session at the MediaGuardian Edinburgh International Television Festival yesterday, Mr Thompson revealed that the deficit in the BBC's pension scheme is similar to the value of BBC Worldwide. "The scale of what we are talking about is large because of the character of final-salary pension schemes, with a deficit of between £1.5bn and £2bn," he said. "We have to make changes. It's difficult, but the issue is affordability."

Mr Thompson made light of the controversial move of staff from London to a new centre in Salford, saying that while it was "not quite a non-issue", concerns will soon seem inconsequential. "Salford is a big idea, a place where 2,500 people are making some of the best TV in the world in a centre which is absolutely state of the art. I don't think in five or 10 years anyone is going to remember any of this. I honestly believe Salford will be judged on its success when it is up and running and this is going to be utterly forgotten by the time we get up there."

Krishnan Guru-Murthy, the Channel 4 News presenter who was interviewing Mr Thompson, argued that it was "not a non-issue" and said that some people on Twitter reacted instantly with anger.

Although Mr Thompson claimed he was not responding to James Murdoch's call to cut the BBC, he outlined dramatic cuts including reductions of more than 10 per cent in pay. "You will see things happen at the BBC and it won't just be drama but the website, where we are talking about a reduction in spend of 25 per cent and significant editorial change. We are reducing the hours of what we make and the pages on our website – and, with iPlayer, there are lots of ways in which people can enjoy that."

"It is a moment for realism for the BBC," he said, responding to suggestions that the licence fee will be reduced.

He acknowledged that the BBC has been losing viewers year on year and said it needs to aim for an international role to generate more revenue, mentioning successes such as Wallander, Doctor Who and international versions of Strictly Come Dancing such as Dancing with the Stars and a Hindi version. "Drama is key, and there are very interesting possibilities. UK audiences are much more comfortable with outstanding programming with some element of global casting or global settings. The parochialism is much less. We are going to have to do it and it is going to be more acceptable to audiences. The public is open-minded about settings.

"We should [also] start working together – BBC, ITV and indies in strategic partnerships with the right American producers. There are opportunities, particularly in the cable space, and what works everywhere in the world are strong flavours."

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Head of Marketing - London

£60000 - £85000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Interim Head of Marketing / Marketin...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Digital Project Manager

£25 - 30k: Guru Careers: A Digital Project Manager is needed to join an exciti...

Paid Search Analyst / PPC Analyst

£24 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Paid Search Analyst / PPC...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week