IBC 2010 – AMSTERDAM Sir Michael Lyons addressed delegates at the IBC technical conference in Amsterdam and told them that 80% of the BBC’s budget would be spent on content.
“Audiences are fragmenting. Technologies are multiplying. New platforms are constantly being invented. Everywhere, funding is under pressure. And in many countries, searching questions are being asked about scale and funding,” he said. However, the BBC’s emphasis on content did not mean an end to its involvement in work such as the hybrid platform Canvas. “We approved Canvas on condition that the new platform is as open as possible. Open to other partners, open to content providers and manufacturers, and above all, open and accessible for consumers. Our goal is to stimulate competition and promote the next phase of growth in the industry”.
The chairman of the BBC’s regulatory body the BBC Trust, said there would be some hard choices on which platforms it would use in the future. “The BBC is constantly having to ask itself if it should put its content on to these new platforms – and if so, how? And it also has to ask itself what the traditional BBC commitment to universal access means in this new world,” he said. “True universal access is easier to offer in the abstract than it is in the real world of the future”.
Sir Michael said that new digital services had to be made available to as many people as possible, but that mobile and IP platforms brought great and substantial challenges for the future. He added that as increasing numbers of other platforms took on BBC content, the corporation had to be careful as to how the BBC brand was treated.
Sir Michael looked to Denmark and Germany where changes in the application of the licence fee had meant the charge was no longer levied on just the traditional television receiver. There are those who predict that as convergence develops viewing will switch from TV screens to other devices and that this will fatally undermine the funding basis of the BBC, since it is in essence tied to TV screens.
Some other countries have already anticipated this trend. Denmark has already changed the basis on which its licence fee is based, no longer tying it to the ownership of a TV set but to ownership of any receiving device.
Asked if in the spirit of the times the BBC would give up the £2 increase in the licence fee Sir Michael said this was under consideration. “We want to underline the importance of the current five year agreement, but we also understand they are important times for the British public as it is. This is not without pain and it would mean we would not be able to do everything that has been planned”.