The BBC, in its proposal to reduce costs and shift into a digital-first future, has announced today several future plans, including the closure of the linear versions of BBC Four and CBBC, changes to its BBC News channel, and the re-allocation of significant amounts to BBC iPlayer.
In a speech given to BBC staff today, BBC Director-General Tim Davie announced plans for major BBC reforms, in line with the need to cut costs over the freezing of the TV Licence fee, which is used to fund the BBC.
Overall, the announced changes would mean cuts of £200m year.
The major changes will see a greater emphasis on the BBC’s digital and streaming platforms, with more content coming early – or even exclusively – to BBC iPlayer.
Meanwhile, several linear TV and radio channels will stop broadcasting on platforms such as Freeview and Freesat, and will instead either shut down completely or move to streaming (as was the case with BBC Three in 2016, when it moved from linear to streaming. Surprisingly however, BBC Three returned as a linear channel earlier this year).
The channel closures, however, will not take place “for at least the next three years”, according to Mr Davie, “because for the moment they are still delivering value to millions of viewers and listeners, at low extra cost”.
In his speech, Mr Davie revealed that 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”, he said.
This is despite the market veering towards a digital and streaming future.
Mr Davie also added that less than 10% of the BBC’s usage is “signed in”, hindering their ability to offer a properly tailored service, unlike their global competitors (this presumably relates to both BBC iPlayer and the BBC’s other digital destinations, such as the BBC News website/app).
Regarding the BBC’s streaming platform, iPlayer, Mr Davie announced plans to enhance the service:
“Today, iPlayer reaches less than 50% of BBC viewers on average per week. Our ambition is to grow this to 75%.
“We’ll do this by re-allocating significant amounts of money every year into video that delivers on iPlayer, across a broad mix of genres.
“We will propose to Ofcom to expand boxsets and archive, to have more BBC series available on demand. And we want to ensure that news and current affairs is as important to iPlayer as it is on broadcast, which means new on-demand content and formats to build new audience habits.”
BBC Channels Shutting Down
In an effort to cut costs, the BBC announced that two linear TV channels – BBC Four and CBBC, as well as Radio 4 Extra – will stop their linear broadcasts after 2025.
BBC Four (Channel 9 / 106 on Freeview, Channel 108 on Freesat) launched back in 2002, replacing BBC Knowledge as a channel dedicated to culture and education.
Over the years, BBC Four focused on programmes related to arts, documentaries and music. More recently, BBC Four turned into a BBC archive of sorts, with reruns from the vast BBC archive and no original programming.
The CBBC channel (Freeview Channels 201/204) dates back even longer, having launched in 1985. The linear version of the channel broadcasts between 7am to 7pm, timesharing its hours with the recently reinstated BBC Three.
According to the BBC, “Over time we expect to consolidate and share more content between services, and expect to stop broadcasting some of our smaller channels on linear”.
While no exact details were given yet, once this change takes place these two channels will no longer be available on the free-to-air platforms (such as Freeview and Freesat), though their brands may still exist on BBC iPlayer, similar to how BBC Three operated until recently (with Radio 4 Extra moving to BBC Sounds).
BBC News Changing
Further upcoming changes were announced today in relation to the BBC News channel, with the local BBC News and International News teams coming together.
The single 24/7 BBC News channel will have unified teams behind it, offering greater amounts of shared content, but maintaining the ability to offer separate broadcasts depending on what’s happening at home and abroad.
So while the two channels will turn into one – they will still be able to show different content depending on where the viewer is located (This sounds somewhat similar to CNN International, which airs both international/local content and content from its US home-base, as events dictate).
“We propose to go further and create output around a single TV channel called BBC News”, Mr Davie announced. “We know there are stories which are key to UK audiences, but less relevant elsewhere, and vice versa – so not everything will be simulcast.
“However, there will be much more shared output and a fully co-ordinated approach. And we want to break new ground by creating output that can be simulcast on audio and video services”.
“This is our moment to build a digital-first BBC”, Mr Davie concluded. “Something genuinely new, a Reithian organisation for the digital age, a positive force for the UK and the world.
Independent, impartial, constantly innovating and serving all. A fresh, new, global digital media organisation which has never been seen before. Solely driven by the desire to make life and society better for our licence fee payers and customers in every corner of the UK and beyond.”
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