There are chinks in the BBC’s funding bid

The swift reaction to the BBC's funding bid, probably best summed up as outrageous, leads to the hot topic of the autumn...whether it will be accepted.

Governments are not immune to the national press, and it is noticeable that so far, as I write, only The Guardian has backed the argument for a 2.3% real rise, over seven years.

But the problem for the commercial sector ranged against an overly-funded, expansionary BBC, is that there is no broad opposition coalition and it is probably too late in the day to construct one.

For example, rival commercial broadcasters mumble into their hands at this point, saying a strong BBC is a good thing, it drives commercial impacts to them.

Second, in order to steer that inflationary figure down below the current 1.5% annual rise, you have to tackle a well-constructed wall of BBC ambition, where the cement is setting. The BBC has put together a well-argued case.

I've had a seat at three previous licence debates and this represents a break with the past, it is more than an opening position.

In my view, there has been a failure over the past year to challenge the BBC's philosophical case for re-interpreting its universal role as now being a complete provider of content via every digital platform, including its own new search engines – for which we learn the bill will be £1.2bn.

The bone should have been more firmly grasped from July last year, when the BBC's Building Public Value pitch set out an extremely ambitious plan, but without a price tag.

By now much of this has been absorbed into the Government's thinking – it is what the BBC calls "an agreed vision" and will survive through into the White Paper. This methodology, scoping, then costing, is a luxury, but they've got away with it.

Third, part of the heavy new costs – £600m– is for building up the BBC's local presence, via broadband, new local radio stations, a Milton Keynes centre, and Manchester.

But again, the BBC's policy meshes with the Government's out-of-London strategy. And it is assisted by the commercial media's retreat: ITV reducing its regional commitment and commercial radio's patchy record for instance.

I know Ofcom is rolling out community radio, with local television coming over the hill.

But there is sound basis for the BBC's assertion that the public want more local content and it is a gap politicians want it to fill. Not everyone lives in Greater London, where commercial radio competes so fiercely for attention.

Fourth, only last week, BBC launched Raw , a programme of adult literacy, across all of its networks. It is not something it invites media buyers to, but MPs and educationalists swarm. All sorts of organisations have been wooed in the past year with BBC partnership proposals.

Not all is lost. The figures for an extra £5.5bn must be picked over in detail. How, for example, is that £1.6bn of content spending being divvied up? Are BBC3 and 4 going to run around the clock?

The real scope this autumn for commercial operators lies in striking a deal that market impact assessments are carried out objectively, on new and (most important) existing BBC services, before new products are simply added on.

The BBC has effectively been expanding into free content downloads this year, such as the Beethoven concerts, without any proper consultation, let alone analysis.

That's the bit of the BBC wall to direct a hammer and pick at.

Have your say...

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Media Week Jobs
Search for more media jobs


Watch the first YouTube clip, nine years on

Watch the first YouTube clip, nine years on

This week marks the ninth anniversary of the first clip uploaded on YouTube, a 19-second video of YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim at the San Diego Zoo.

Yahoo hosts exclusive X-Men: Days of Future Past films

Yahoo hosts exclusive X-Men: Days of Future Past films

Yahoo has partnered with film distributor Twentieth Century Fox to create a global content hub on its Yahoo Movies platform for new release 'X-Men: Days of Future Past'.

My Media Week: Stuart Taylor

My Media Week: Stuart Taylor

This week, Stuart Taylor, chief executive, Kinetic UK, is inspired by the new tech coming to market and how wearables and smart cities will impact on OOH.


Get news by email