BBC Trust says pubcaster should take more risks

The BBC must take more risks and offer more original content, according to its 2015/2016 annual report.
July 12, 2016

The BBC must take more risks and offer more original content, according to the British pubcaster’s 2015/2016 annual report.

On Tuesday (July 12), the BBC reported fiscal results ending in March 2016 that showed spending on television content was down overall while digital spending increased.

Meanwhile, the corporation had a surplus of £59 million – including a £96 million gain from a London real estate sale – compared with a deficit of £125 million last year.

The BBC reached 96% of adults in the UK last year, with BBC director-general Tony Hall citing programming successes such as The Great British Bake Off and drama series War and Peace and The Night Manager.

“We’ve made progress in making the BBC a simpler and leaner organisation that focuses more of our spend on making content,” he said in a statement. “Next year I want us to go further and build on the stability a new charter gives us to serve the whole of the UK with programs that are distinctive, innovative and trusted.”

Despite those successes, research showed a “performance gap” in the public’s view of the BBC as a whole compared with the popularity of its programming.

“Those viewing BBC television are increasingly rating it as ‘fresh and new,’” the pubcaster’s governing body, BBC Trust, noted in the report. “However, there remains a performance gap in the public’s broader view of the BBC in this respect and qualitative research we undertook for Charter Review suggests that there is still a public appetite for the BBC to take more risks in its programming and offer more original and innovative content.”

In terms of spending, the BBC spent around £1.7 billion (US$2.24 billion) on TV content, compared to about £1.8 billion (US$2.37 billion) last year. Meanwhile, £153.3 million (US$202 million) was spent on digital content compared with £124.6 million (US164.2 million) last year.

In 2015/16, 94% of the BBC’s core controllable spend was on content, distribution and related support while 6% was spent on running the organization.

The pubcaster said it has saved £621 million (US$820 million) through cost-cutting measures and senior management reductions and is on track to save £700 million (US$924 million) by March 2017.

Total revenue was £4.83 billion (US$6.36 billion) compared with £4.81 billion last year and total operating costs went down to £4.80 billion (US$6.32 billion) from £4.90 billion.

The pubcaster’s commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, brought in headline sales of £1.03 billion (US$1,36 billion) compared with £1 billion last year but headline profits were down £5 million to £134 million (US$177 million).

Viewership declined overall, particularly among younger viewers. Audience share year-over-year was down from 32.9% to 32.3% across all channels.

Only factual programming bucked the trend by growing overall reach particularly among black and minority viewers. The BBC Trust cited titles such as Hugh’s War on Waste, Back in Time for the Weekend and The Real Marigold Hotel as strong performers.

Additionally, BBC1′s Attenborough and the Giant Dinosaur was a hit in the natural history space, drawing 8.1 million viewers, and Fake or Fortune was the BBC’s top performing arts series since 2004.

The BBC’s most-watched program in 2015 was The Great British Bake Off finale, which attracted 15 million viewers. The Strictly Come Dancing finale drew 12.3 million – or more than 50% of all  TV viewers.

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