VLV’s annual Autumn conference on 23 November focused on what the next ten years might hold for audiences with the Draft Charter ready to be signed by the Queen and Channel 4’s operating model under scrutiny.
Lord Hall of Birkenhead CBE, Director-General of the BBC, was our keynote speaker. He highlighted how the BBC purposes in the new Charter will underpin all the BBC does.
In his speech Lord Hall set out five ways in which he believes the BBC should measure its future impact and gauge its success. These were fulfilling a traditional mission in the digital age, providing something good for everyone, being a trusted voice in a crowded arena, bringing the country together, and defining Britain’s identity on both a local and global basis.
The second session of the morning focused on Channel 4 with VLV’s President, Dame Colette Bowe, chairing a session with Dan Brooke, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at C4C, Steve Morrison, the Founder of All3Media and journalist Maggie Brown. You can hear Dan’s speech here.
While rumours of the privatisation of C4C had died down over the Summer, they were recently reignited when the Secretary of State made it clear before the Culture, Media and Sport committee earlier in October that privatisation is still very much an option and she is hoping to come to a decision ‘in the near future’. The panel all opposed privatisation because of the impact it would have on the independent production sector in the UK and on Channel 4’s ability to continue to deliver public service content for audiences. While there were some concerns about Channel 4’s sustainability, overall there was consensus that Channel 4 is in good shape.
Three eminent Peers spoke in our third session of the day:Lord Inglewood, former Conservative Minister in the Department of National Heritage and Chairman of the Lords Communications Committee, Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury, current member of the Communications Committee and Liberal Democrat spokesperson in the Lords on Culture, Media and Sport, and Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, Labour spokesperson in the Lords on Culture, Media and Sport. Their discussion was wide ranging, but it focused mostly on the future of the BBC and Channel 4. They all have concerns about the potential privatisation of Channel 4 and how to ensure that BBC funding negotiations are conducted in a more transparent way in future. Their session concluded with a discussion on the meaning of ‘distinctiveness’ which is one of the key missions of the BBC in its new Charter. There was consensus that any definition of distinctiveness is very subjective and it is a mistake for it to be included in the Charter as a measure of the BBC’s delivery of its mission.
Our final session of the day explored whether new technology poses a threat to traditional public service television. Jonathan Thompson, CEO of Digital UK, Lindsey Clay,CEO ofThinkbox, journalist Bill Thompson and Mathew Horsman,Director of Mediatique took part in the discussion.
Conclusions from this panel were that traditional TV is live and well. Jonathan Thompson, Lindsey Clay and Mathew Horsman all stressed that live television is still by far the most popular form of entertainment for audiences, accounting for ¾ of our viewing. It is even popular among younger audiences, even though their behaviour is changing. Since new technology is continually evolving, there were warning messages from Bill Thompson that TV needs to adapt to and engage with new technology to ensure that traditional public service broadcasters remain relevant and continue to deliver the public service objectives for citizens in the future.
You can read a more detailed report on the conference here