John Whittingdale announces BBC reforms

BBC white paper: What the changes mean for you as a viewer, at a glance

You can now watch BBC iPlayer abroad - but you will also soon have to pay a bigger licence fee

Adam Withnall@adamwithnall
Thursday 12 May 2016 11:29
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The Government has announced a series of recommendations as part of a "major overhaul" of how the BBC operates, including the total abolition of the BBC Trust.

But beyond the broader issues of governance and accountability, what will the changes mean directly for you as a viewer? Here are the key points from the announcement.

* BBC iPlayer viewers, even those who only watch catch-up services, will be required to pay the licence fee

* A freeze on the fee will end, and the current cost of £145.50 a year will rise in line with inflation from 2017

* But there will be more flexible payment plans to help lower-income families pay over time

* And the BBC is going to be required to make its content "portable", so UK fee payers can access iPlayer while on holiday in other EU member states

* The BBC must focus on "innovative and high quality" programming - not just on ratings

* More programmes catering to diverse communities, regions and nations of the UK, as part of a government "requirement to serve all audiences"

* More educational content across BBC platforms "to help support learning for children and teenagers across the UK"

* Fewer "in-house" BBC shows, except for news programmes. Because the Tories believe in "the benefits of competition", all funding for BBC TV content will be opened up to tender from private production firms who think they could do a better job than the BBC's in-house teams

* A new complaints system - with Ofcom now taking on responsibility for regulating the BBC

There has been much speculation in recent months over what measures would be included in the BBC's new Royal Charter.

More controversial moves - such as an attempt to block the BBC from competing with rival broadcasters for prime-time viewers - have not been included.

In practice, you may have heard that the changes would stop the BBC running programmes like Strictly Come Dancing at its usual time. That measure has been dropped.

John Whittingdale, the Culture Secretary, told Parliament: "The BBC is and must always remain at the very heart of British life. We want the BBC to thrive, to make fantastic programmes for audiences and to act as an engine for growth and creativity."

The white paper presented today comes after almost a year of consultations and negotiations. It was largely welcomed by BBC Director-general Tony Hall, who said: "This White Paper delivers a mandate for the strong, creative BBC the public believe in. A BBC that will be good for the creative industries - and most importantly of all, for Britain."

Lord Waheed Alli, founder of the Great BBC campaign, said it was clear that Mr Whittingdale had “been forced to back down on some of his wilder proposals” but had showed himself to be “ideologically committed to undermining the BBC”.

“While this (Charter) may not destroy public service broadcasting immediately, it is only right to warn how this can do real and lasting damage the long term,” he said.

“This is a ticking time bomb under the BBC.”

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