BBC warns of future cuts impacting TV services | Major Businesses | Business | News | Rapid TV News
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More than 90% of UK adults used BBC services each week, across the last 12 months, with a monthly figure of 97%, says the corporation’s annual plan for 2021/22 but the statement also warned that its continued cost cutting programme will lead to difficult choices that will impact programmes and services.
BBC corporate 25March2021
The plan sets out in detail what the BBC will deliver across TV, radio and online in the coming year and follows the publication of the BBC Across the UK blueprint, published earlier this month offering what the corporation said was the biggest programme of reform for decades and which was designed to transform the BBC and bring it closer to audiences, increase value and boost the creative sector.
Among the landmark stats outlined in the plan showed that among UK adults, the average audience of BBC News at Six has regularly been over 5 million in 2020, the largest regular audience for almost twenty years. BBC One’s 6.30pm news programme in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions continues to be the UK’s most-watched news programme.

In response to the pandemic, the BBC’s expanded education offer - Lockdown Learning – was found to have brought a record breaking 5.8 million visitors to BBC Bitesize and almost a million iPlayer requests for Bitesize Daily shows for the first week when launched in January. Also in 2020, the iPlayer broke new records, with 5.8 billion requests to stream programmes, up 31% on the year before.
Yet despite what amounted to clearly popularity of the corporation’s output, the BBC warned that going forward it would have to run “as efficiently and effectively as possible”, and become a leaner organisation with improved systems and processes. The annual plan confirmed that by the end of the current financial year, the BBC will have delivered £880m of annual recurring savings since 2016/17 - beating a target of £800 million a year ahead of schedule. Yet in 21/22 it is expected ongoing savings will rise above £950 million.

Moreover, the BBC highlighted that in line with many organisations across the UK, the Covid pandemic affected its finances in 2020/21 and continued to make the year ahead uncertain. At the start of the pandemic it put in place measures to deliver £125 million of additional savings and we also took the decision to delay implementation of the new policy of proposing select parts of the over-75 age demographic pay the BBC licence fee once again.

But as it worked to deliver significant gains in productivity, the BBC accepted that further savings would lied to it having to make “difficult choices” ones that would impact programmes and services. In its 2021 BBC Strategic Financial Management report, the UK’s National Audit Office observed: “Despite high levels of inflation in the entertainment industry, the BBC has been able to maintain its content spending, but this will be a challenge for the future.”

In the video sector, these changes will not only see the previously publicised return of BBC Three as a linear channel but also a doubling of the spend on arts and music on BBC Two to reach and service a wider audience. Yet while there will be increased use of the iPlayer as ac curation vehicle to create what is called a “distinctive” library of content online, BBC Four,  home of arts and foreign language drama, will move away from commissioning smaller lower-cost titles and focus on being an archive channel. The BBC noted that the channel’s current archive content offer already comprised 76% of its broadcast hours and 69% of the channel’s broadcast viewing hours.

In making these changes the BBC in the annual plan for 2021/22 that it would work with UK broadcast regular Ofcom regarding the most appropriate mechanism for implementing these changes transparently and quickly, and that following the changes to structure and membership of Digital UK and Freesat, it intended to work with other public service broadcasters to bring the best of universal free-to-air linear and on-demand TV into one place.