BBC Sets Out “Digital-First” Plan


Shifting content spend toward the iPlayer and axing the CBBC and BBC Four linear channels are among the plans set out in the BBC’s blueprint for a digital-first future.

The vision, laid out to staffers by Director-General Tim Davie, outlines the steps needed for BBC’s transformation into a “modern, digital-led and streamlined organization that drives the most value from the license fee and delivers more for audiences,” the organization said.

As part of its first phase, the plan looks to deliver £500 million ($630.5 million) in annual savings. Of this, £200 million ($252 million) will contribute to the £285 million ($359.4 million) annual funding gap by 2027/28, created by the license fee settlement earlier this year. The remaining funding gap will be covered in the final three years of this Charter period. The BBC will also reinvest £300 million ($378.4 million) as part of its digital-first transformation, including moving “significant amounts of money” into new content for iPlayer.

“When I took this job, I said that we needed to fight for something important: public-service content and services, freely available universally, for the good of all,” Davie said. “This fight is intensifying, the stakes are high.”

As part of the new plan for the organization, a single 24-hour news channel, BBC News, will serve U.K. and international audiences. Smaller linear channels, including CBBC and BBC Four, will stop broadcasting. The BBC will seek approval from Ofcom to remove regulatory restrictions on the iPlayer so it can expand the availability of boxsets and archive content.

The vision will see downsizing, with 1,000 fewer people employed in the public-funded part of the BBC over the next few years.

“This is our moment to build a digital-first BBC,” Davie said. “Something genuinely new, a Reithian organization for the digital age, a positive force for the U.K. and the world. Independent, impartial, constantly innovating and serving all. A fresh, new, global digital media organization which has never been seen before. Driven by the desire to make life and society better for our license fee payers and customers in every corner of the U.K. and beyond. They want us to keep the BBC relevant and fight for something that in 2022 is more important than ever. To do that, we need to evolve faster and embrace the huge shifts in the market around us.

“I believe in a public-service BBC for all, properly funded, relevant for everyone, universally available and growing in the on-demand age,” Davie concluded. “This plan sets us on that journey.”