Tearing up the rule book: How to save the BBC

By September 10, 2015BBC, Broadcasting, Journalism, News

An online-only, budget Beeb might be the only way to save our beloved British broadcaster.

News the BBC is set to open an online store, to compete with the likes of Apple’s iTunes, can only be seen as a positive step forward.

From the autumn, customers will be able to buy and download up to 10,000 hours of recent shows and archive programmes on BBC Store. It opens a big new market.

The ability to control the sale of BBC content online, is a tremendous boost and could bring in millions of pounds to bolster the coffers.

Clearly this is not going to solve the BBC’s financial woes overnight, but it is a significant move in the right direction and proves a realisation of the need to adapt to the digital age.

This is something the BBC as a whole has not always been very good at.

As everyone is aware, the BBC is embroiled in a serious fight for its very existence. The next few months will decide the scale and size of the organisation and how it will be paid for.

As I’ve written in the past, the current TV licence fee system is flawed and simply can’t be considered a viable lasting option. You can’t rely on a twentieth century funding model in 2015.

 Sweeping digital changes

The media industry has moved on, highlighted again yesterday with the signing of Clarkson, May, Hammond et al to Amazon Prime. They will be starring in a new motoring show for the on-demand platform, to compete with the BBC’s Top Gear.While there’s no doubt the ‘BBC Store’ is good news, there are more steps that should be taken to prove the adoption of further digital tactics.The Director General, Tony Hall, needs to save a great deal of money at the moment, to meet a funding shortfall of £150m. He has already announced plans to cut jobs, but why not be braver and focus on the digital platforms of the future, rather than those of the past – and in the process save money.

Self-disrupting the BBC

The BBC News channel costs £66m a year. Surely it’s time to stop messing around and put it online. Broadcast 24-hour news channels are a thing of the past. Breaking news can be covered so much better on social and digital platforms.

Equally, BBC Four should follow BBC Three to become an online only channel. These are just two simple steps that will save tens of millions of pounds every year.

Traditional broadcasting is still incredibly important, but it is expensive. Where programmes and news can be treated more appropriately on a digital platform, patently that should be done.

In reality the plans for the BBC Store are not that revolutionary.

It is being run by the BBC’s commercial arm, BBC Worldwide and in many ways is the natural progression from selling VHS tapes, DVDs and Blu-ray.

However what it does illustrate is – the organisation is serious about embracing the digital age and being proactive.

For the BBC to survive in the current political landscape, it does need to grasp the initiative and prove it is changing to reflect the future.