BBC Four and children’s channel CBBC will close in the next few years, while the domestic BBC News channel will merge with BBC World News to create a single channel, under new plans announced Thursday.
In a speech to staff on Thursday afternoon BBC director-general Tim Davie outlined plans for £500 million in annual savings and ‘reinvestment’ that will make the BBC Digital-led. £200 million will go to help plug the £285 million annual shortfall created by the recent Licence Fee settlement. £300 million will go into the ‘digital-first’ approach, while “Significant” amounts of money will go into new programmes for iPlayer which will also attract extra third-party investment on screen.
The announcement of the closure of BBC Four and CBBC as a linear channel comes just weeks after the return of BBC Three to the linear format. But the switch won’t happen for at least three years as they are still “delivering value to millions of viewers and listeners”.
Davey said the BBC wanted to reach 75% of its audience through the iPlayer, from the present 50% with only 10% of these signed in meaning that personalisation is limited.
“Though broadcast channels will be essential for years to come, we are moving decisively to a largely on-demand world. Today around 85% of the time people spend with the BBC is with linear broadcasts. Too many of our resources are focused on broadcast and not online.”
A request is being made to Ofcom to remove restrictions on the amount of boxed sets the BBC can offer. This will allow new content to be added to the platform, which will also have a new emphasis on news.
The merger of the two news channels – the two already share a significant amount of output – will contribute towards savings in broadcast news. The channels will retain the ability to offer UK and international programming, according to the news agenda.
The combined channel will be known as BBC News.
New digital and on demand formats will be introduced for news.
Overall, there will be up to 1,000 fewer people employed in the public-funded part of the BBC over the next few years.