Nieman Foundation at Harvard
Is the news industry ready for another pivot to video?
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Sept. 3, 2020, 12:50 p.m.
LINK:  ➚   |   Posted by: Sarah Scire   |   September 3, 2020

In his first speech to staff, the BBC’s new director general — former BBC Studios head and “marketing guruTim Davie — came out against a subscription model and warned there must be “a radical shift” in focus if the public broadcaster is to survive.

Davie also told staff that his top priority was to “renew [the BBC’s] commitment to impartiality.”

“It is not simply about left or right. This is more about whether people feel we see the world from their point of view. Our research shows that too many perceive us to be shaped by a particular perspective.”

He added: “If you want to be an opinionated columnist or a partisan campaigner on social media then that is a valid choice, but you should not be working at the BBC.”

Though the corporation remains the most-trusted outlet in the U.K., the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism found trust in the BBC has fallen by 20 percentage points since 2018 among the politically committed on both the left and the right. (Meanwhile, The Guardian reported that hungry rivals, seeing a desire for more opinionated news, are planning a Fox News-style channel to compete with the corporation.)

Currently, the BBC is funded through a license fee under a 10-year charter that expires in 2027. What happens after that is not clear. Davie has floated the idea of replacing the license fee with a new income tax, similar to one implemented in Sweden in 2019, and the BBC has previously suggested receiving revenue from council tax bills or adding a fee onto broadband bills. Davie could also end the license fee early to install a longer-term funding model.

One thing the BBC is not considering? A subscription model. “We could make a decent business out of it, and I suspect it could do quite well in certain postcodes,” Davie told staff. “But it would make us just another media company serving a specific group.”

Davie’s appointment, announced in June, came despite calls to choose a woman to lead the BBC for the first time in its history. “Davie is the 17th successive man to be appointed to the role of director general since the BBC was founded in 1927,” The Guardian noted at the time.

In his address to staff, Davie said he regretted that the company had “not gone further to create a more diverse and inclusive” organization and promised to make sure the BBC “reflects more accurately the society we serve.”

Davie also told staff to prepare for additional job cuts and to focus on “more impact by making less.” You can read the full speech here.

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