BBC Director General Tony Hall says further cuts to the BBC will mean tens of thousands of jobs lost across the “whole economy”.
Writing for the Mirror, Hall was making a staunch defence of the licence fee ahead of an interview with John Whittingdale, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport at the Edinburgh TV Festival.
Whittingdale, who has previously described the licence fee as “worst than the poll tax” is expected to criticise the BBC in Edinburgh.
Here is what Tony Hall, BBC Director General, has to say
There are a big couple of weeks coming up for telly fans.
Strictly is about to return – and so is the X Factor.
In a few weeks’ time you’ll also have The Voice, Doctor Who, Downton Abbey, a new adaption of War and Peace on the BBC and This is England 90 on Channel 4.
It goes to show that we are lucky to have such a strong TV industry in the UK. There is huge choice alongside the BBC – ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Sky, Netflix, Amazon – the list goes on. The competition is fierce, quality improves and the audience wins.
It is all too easy to take this for granted, and with the Government deciding on the future of the BBC, there is much at stake.
Some commentators have called for a smaller BBC. Some suggest we should focus on specialist programmes in areas like the arts, music and current affairs.
Some even question whether we should provide entertainment.
The reason the BBC works is because it provides something for everyone.
We make sure everyone gets something for their licence fee – whether that’s the Great British Bake Off, Match of the Day, EastEnders, Wolf Hall, Life on Earth, or Top Gear.
Whether you’re listening to the radio in the car, watching TV at home, checking the website on the move or watching programmes you’ve downloaded on the BBC iPlayer on holiday.
The BBC’s quest has always been to make the good popular, and the popular good.
Strictly may regularly attract audiences of 10 million or more, but what other channel would have gambled on putting ballroom dancing on Saturday prime time?
And apart from one of England’s World Cup games, last year’s Bake Off final was the most watched TV event of the year.
Who else would have invested in a prime time show about home baking?
If we were forced to stop producing popular programmes then people would question what value they got for their £2.80 a week.
Others argue that despite being popular, the BBC is too big and needs cutting down to size.
They say it has grown hugely in the last few years, and point to the number of TV channels the BBC offers rising from two in 1994 to nine now.
What gets left out of the argument is that the number of channels available to viewers rose nine-fold from 61 to 536 during the same period.
So actually the BBC accounts for a far smaller proportion of television now than it did twenty years ago.
The facts are that the BBC currently receives just 17% of UK TV revenues and this is predicted to fall to 12% by 2022.
Globally we have less than half the revenue of Sky and a sixth of the revenue of Disney.
And while Sky and ITV recorded soaring profits this summer, the licence fee has been frozen for six years.
Despite this we punch above our weight in making Britain’s voice heard abroad, through the international success of our programmes and the highly respected World Service.
A strong BBC also contributes to a strong UK economy.
The money the BBC spends on actors, cameramen, sets, equipment, technical experts and many other areas means more private sector jobs are created and more small businesses are sustained.
A recent report showed that the BBC was responsible for spending £2.2bn in the UK’s creative industries – with around £450m going straight to small businesses.
This helps Britain build a TV industry to rival any in the world. It helps the UK develop some of the world’s best actors, cameramen, and directors.
Tom Hooper who made the King’s Speech started out working on Eastenders, and James Marsh who directed The Theory of Everything, in which Eddie Redmayne brilliantly played Professor Stephen Hawking, used to work at the BBC.
And when series like Game of Thrones are choosing where to film they know that the UK has the skills to deliver.
All this brings more jobs and money into the UK.
New research shows that, because of the boost the BBC provides, if you cut the licence fee by 25% you’d lose about 32,000 jobs across the whole economy.
These aren’t just jobs at the BBC, but across the TV industry – at independent producers, suppliers and studios up and down the country.
You’d also lose a significant chunk of the money spent on new British programmes.
Why is this important?
Well all our research tells us that as much as audiences enjoy the big US blockbusters like House of Cards and Breaking Bad, they also want programmes set in the UK, with British actors and actresses telling stories they can relate to.
That’s why British shows like Happy Valley, Luther, Poldark, Sherlock and Broadchurch are so popular and many household names made their breakthrough on BBC shows.
Without the BBC’s investment the number of British shows made will fall – that would be a great shame for Britain and Mirror readers.
In some areas like children’s programming the BBC already accounts for 97% of new spending on British programmes compared to ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.
As huge American companies such as Amazon, Google and Apple start to make programmes and services of their own, we need to think carefully about what makes British telly special.
Whenever you go abroad you hear people praising British TV.
We’re fortunate to have one of the most creative TV industries in the world, because we have advertising funding ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, subscription paying for Sky and the licence fee supporting the BBC.
Let’s not sacrifice that.
A strong BBC will help deliver a strong Britain. Let’s make the most of one of Britain’s greatest exports and make it even greater in the years ahead.
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