The BBC’s Annual Plan for the 12 months starting 1st April provides a more detailed look at what the BBC has planned for its services.
Ofcom will judge the BBC based on the commitments that appear in the document, in line with the recently revised operating licence.
But following two years of a frozen licence fee, the BBC’s deficit for the year now stands at £352m with the broadcaster seeking to make £400m of savings.
It’s pinning its hopes on a growth plan for BBC Studios, which aims to plug some of the shortfall and generate further income for the BBC. In the UK, the annual plan confirms the BBC will aim to increase the reach and share of its UKTV broadcast business.
As a result of the cuts, there will be fewer new shows alongside the previously announced cuts to local radio and merger of its news channels.
Regarding news, the BBC has been hit by a triple whammy of
- increased competition from news services funded by foreign governments and right-leaning organisations with deep pockets;
- strong competition from online-only news outlets;
- for its UK operations, an effective cut in funding from the licence fee.
BBC Global News Limited, which looks after the sales of advertising on BBC World News, has posted losses for the past three years. Back in 2017, former BBC Director-General Tony Hall pleaded for extra money from the Government for BBC World News.
The hope is by merging the two channels, a more premium product can be created on limited resources, although there are ongoing concerns about UK audiences being disadvantaged.
In turn, the new BBC News service would be better able to cover its costs through advertising and sponsorship outside of the UK.
The BBC doubled down on plans to cut BBC Local Radio, despite strong objections and ongoing industrial action. The NUJ continues a work to rule in BBC Local, which resulted in no separate regional TV news service for the North East and Cumbria this morning.
Nevertheless, the BBC confirmed work would continue to ensure that all regional news studios are refreshed and can output in HD. Despite the arrival of BBC One HD, some regions still broadcast in SD – something that is now confirmed to change in the coming operational year.
The BBC said it would “intensify efforts” towards launching next generation internet-enabled free-to-air experiences across a wide range of television devices, working with other free-to-air broadcasters and Everyone TV – the platform operator behind Freeview and Freesat.
On radio, the BBC is to review how it uses DAB digital radio. In a vague statement, the broadcaster said it will also review its portfolio of smaller services. Previously it had announced an online-only move for Radio 4 Extra, but the annual plan failed to provide any further specifics.
Meanwhile the BBC will finalise plans to close BBC Radio 5 Live on Medium Wave and stop scheduling separate programmes on R4 LW ahead of its closure.
What the BBC will show this year
On TV, the BBC promises to screen 7,775 hours of first-run programmes in 2023 – 24 across BBC One (4,500 hours), BBC Two (2,600 hours), BBC Three (200 hours), BBC Four (150 hours), CBBC (250) and CBeebies (100).
Many more hours of content will be on the iPlayer only.
For example, 500 hours of history programmes will be made available to viewers in 2023 – 24. 400 hours will appear on regular TV channels, while 100 hours will be iPlayer only. But only 40 hours will be first-run.
In science/natural history, 800 of the 1,000 hours of content to be made available will be broadcast on regular channels, with 200 hours online only.
There will be 50 hours of acquired programmes in this genre and there will be 80 hours of first-run science and natural history content.
In the world of entertainment and factual entertainment, there will be 4,500 hours of content made available to viewers, of which 3,500 hours will appear on TV channels and a further 1,000 hours will be online only.
140 of the overall entertainment/factual hours will be acquisitions of which only a third will be shown on TV channels; the remainder will be online only.
At the same time, more of the BBC’s TV and radio programmes will be made outside of London, with a number of programmes moving to new bases across the UK.
The publication of the BBC Annual Plan follows the launch of a new operating licence for the BBC, which was approved by Ofcom last week.
The process leading to the new operating licence saw the BBC appeal for a greater relaxation of quotas. In the end, Ofcom decided to retain some quotas and turn back on plans to remove all commitments from BBC News.
PICTURED: BBC Annual Plan. COPYRIGHT: BBC.