The BBC’s content chief has warned that employees face a moment of “great jeopardy” as the British broadcaster wrestles with funding pressures and fierce competition from U.S. streamers.
Charlotte Moore said the BBC does not have a “God-given right to exist” and must embrace change if it is going to survive well into its second century of broadcasting.
Speaking at a Voice of the Listener & Viewer conference in London, Moore reflected on the difficult choices the BBC has to make as it bids to plug a £1.4B ($1.7B) hole in its finances after the license fee was frozen last year. The comments could be read as a signal that more job cuts are to come.
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“There’s great jeopardy for all of our staff at the BBC at the moment and for anybody who works in public service broadcasting,” the Chief Content Officer said.
“We all know the competition is enormous, but it is for the BBC to have the courage to look at new models to stand firm and to really think about the ways that we might be able to do things in the future.”
She was speaking in the context of the BBC shutting down its BBC Singers choir, only to later reverse the decision following a public outcry. The corporation is now holding “constructive conversations” about alternative methods of funding the performance group.
There is evidence of cost-cutting across the BBC, with plans to axe 1,000 jobs and slash content spending as the corporation positions itself as a “digital-first” broadcaster.
The squeeze is being felt in the BBC’s newsroom, which has just merged its international and domestic rolling news channels leaving presenters without jobs, and in local radio, where employees are striking over cuts. In both cases, the BBC is switching resources from traditional broadcasting to digital.
“We have to be listening to audiences and make sure that we’re adapting to keep up with these changing audience behaviors and what they expect,” Moore added. “We have to make sure that [audiences] feel the BBC adds value to their lives and that they need us. It’s not our God-given right to exist.”
She said that competition from players like Netflix and Spotify was something the BBC should embrace: “That choice that is out there and that competition shouldn’t be something we’re fearful of. It should be something that we step into.”
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