BBC director Tony Hall says British television programming declined in past five years

 The future of British TV is uncertain if the BBC is allowed to diminish in comparison to Netflix

Ian Burrell
Media editor
Tuesday 08 March 2016 19:40
Lord Hall: 'Overall investment in original British content is in long-term decline'
Lord Hall: 'Overall investment in original British content is in long-term decline'

Tony Hall, the BBC Director-General, has highlighted the “long-term decline” in British television programming and highlighted UK content has fallen by 2,000 hours and £250m in investment in the past five years.

Lord Hall painted a dark picture of the future of British TV if the BBC is allowed to diminish in comparison to Netflix and other “global giant” competitors.

He said that a neglected BBC would be at risk of “sleepwalking into decay”, leaving “the UK’s creative industries damaged, and Britain diminished as a result”.

He suggested that such a scenario would result in “a UK dominated by global gatekeepers, partial news, and American taste-makers”.

Speaking at the Media & Telecoms 2016 & Beyond conference in London, Lord Hall noted the rapid rise of Netflix. “When I spoke here last year, Netflix was available in around 60 countries. Now it is in close to 200.”

He pointed out that The Queen, the streaming service’s much-anticipated royal drama starring Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II, is “the first programme, by the way, Netflix has made about Britain, out of the vast sums they have spent on content so far”.

Referring to research from media regulator Ofcom, Lord Hall said there were cultural consequences to allowing the BBC to lag behind international rivals.

“As global competition rapidly grows, overall investment in original British content is in long-term decline. Over the past few years – as the BBC’s spending has fallen – it has gone down by nearly £250 million, reducing the volume of new UK content broadcast each year by around 2,000 hours.”

The Director-General stated the case for BBC Studios, his idea for transforming the organisation’s production capabilities by allowing it to make shows for other outlets.

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“BBC Studios – and the removal of quotas associated with it – will open us up to the widest and most competitive range of suppliers, and encourage independent producers to bring us their very best ideas,” he said. “Studios is not only the best answer if we are to meet audience expectations while providing them with value for money. It is also the only answer if we are to remain one of the top programme-makers in the world.”

BBC Studios received a setback last week when Peter Salmon, the project’s director, left for a job in the independent production sector.

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