Published on: 09 October 2015 in Industry

BBC Charter Review - Directors UK submits our response to the government green paper

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Directors UK CEO Andrew Chowns introduces our response to the BBC Charter Review:

The BBC’s Royal Charter is up for renewal, and the Government is seeking responses to 19 key questions set out in its Green Paper. Directors UK’s response was submitted earlier this week.

Read our full response.

There has been much comment about the tone of the Green Paper with many commentators seeing it as negative and hostile to the BBC in the way that its questions were posed and the arguments laid out. In his MacTaggart Lecture at this year’s Edinburgh Television FestivalArmando Iannucci laid out a compelling case for a more positive response: for the BBC to be properly acknowledged as a British success story and for that success to be supported by greater investment. We agree strongly with that view, and we say:

“Directors UK members work all over the world and experience at first hand the extraordinarily high regard in which the BBC is held. It is unequivocally considered to be the international gold standard for broadcasting. Indeed it is seen to embody all that is very best in our society. While welcoming the opportunity to respond to the Green Paper, we want to make it clear from the outset that in our unanimous view the BBC is a phenomenal national and international success story. Our suggestions to address areas where improvements can be made should be considered in the context of preserving and nurturing this cherished and unique organisation which exists at the heart of the nation’s cultural life”.

Of course, the BBC is not without its faults, and our response makes clear those areas where we feel change is needed. We have also made a number of new proposals to support greater investment in creativity, training, and to support areas that are most vulnerable in the event that the BBC is forced to make even greater cuts in funding and resources. In particular, we call for:

  • An addition to the list of the BBC’s purposes, so that the BBC is required to play its part in supporting the training and career development of its staff and freelance workforce.
  • Less emphasis on creating additional BBC services and channels, and more focus on making the highest quality programmes and content.
  • More investment in BBC Films, both original commissions and broadcasts of acquired British films.
  • Support for the BBC to continue to offer a full and diverse range of distinctive and high quality programmes in order to serve the largest possible audience in the UK, and we reject the suggestions that the BBC should only make programmes that other broadcasters would not show, and that the BBC should not make popular entertainment programmes.
  • Opposition to the creation of a separate BBC Studios operation. Instead, we call for an in-house commissioning environment and culture that avoids:
    • Concentration of decision-making power in the hands of a few;
    • Excessive delay, intervention and micro-managing of the programme-making process;
    • Greater devolution of commissioning decision-making through genres and through all parts of the UK, to open up the schedule to a wider range of tastes and views
  • Rejection of the proposals to end production quotas for BBC in-house production and for the Window of Creative Competition (WOCC). Instead we call for the continuation of a guaranteed share for BBC in-house production of BBC commission spend, but at a slightly reduced level of 40%. This will allow the BBC to increase the size of the WOCC to 35% of total BBC commissions.
  • Retention of the BBC licence fee, but with amendments to close the current loophole whereby viewing of BBC services via the iPlayer does not require a TV licence.
  • Rejection of the proposal to top-slice BBC licence fee revenue to create a programme fund open to competition.
  • The Government should seize the opportunity it now has to create a private copying levy scheme that will provide fair remuneration to directors and producers, and to devote some of the additional revenue from this to create a contestable programme production fund, with particular emphasis on supporting children’s programmes.
  • Far greater involvement of directors and other programme-makers in discussions of how best to achieve efficiencies in production.
  • Regulation of the BBC to be transferred to Ofcom.

The DCMS will be reviewing all formal responses to their Green Paper in the coming weeks. You can also have your say by writing to your own MP and expressing your view, and we urge you as Directors UK members to contribute to this vital national debate in your own words. It is vital that individual citizens and industry professionals speak out, and alert MPs from all around the country to our proposals and opinions. You can send your MP a copy of our entire document if you wish, or use parts of it to contribute towards your own response. You do not have to confine yourself to the 19 questions in the Green Paper – simply tell your MP what you feel about the future of the BBC.

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