The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the UK’s House of Commons has expressed deep concerns about BBC’s financial prospects and planning, as each year people spend less time watching BBC TV and more households are turning to online platforms such as Netflix.
“Αt a critical juncture” in its history, BBC appears “complacent and unconcerned” in the face of a series of commercial and financial challenges, including declining audiences and drop in licence fee sales, MPs said in the report “BBC strategic financial management”.
BBC is currently in negotiations with the British government about the future level of the licence fee but “appears to have put off the hard choices” about the cuts to frontline staff and content that it concedes it will be forced to make, according to the report.
Giving evidence to the PAC in March, BBC Director-General Tim Davie placed emphasis on the company’s plans to spend £700m more on regional content in the next few years as a means of securing audiences.
However, MPs called the plan “unclear and disjointed”, questioning how Britain’s national broadcaster intended to find this amount of money before the conclusion of negotiations with the government. They also called the BBC to set out how it will achieve its £1 billion savings target by March 2022.
Large drop in audiences
As outlined by PAC, BBC is facing a number of challenges, with the most serious one being the large decline of its audiences. People are spending less time watching BBC television, with 200,000 households per year cancelling their licence fee and many looking to online platforms such as Netflix.
“Yet when pressed, the BBC seem unconcerned by the decline, maintaining that overall the number of users it reaches is high compared to other broadcasters. Nor was the BBC able to demonstrate to us a clear understanding of why increasing numbers of households are forgoing the TV licence”, the report said.
MPs said BBC stood at a “critical juncture” and should work to “fully understand” why more people were watching less and choosing not to have a TV licence.
“We can see the BBC might be reticent to share detailed plans at this delicate moment, in the middle of licence fee negotiations, but we expected a clearer vision of how it will address the decline in its audiences and revenues, and manage the global transition from traditional TV viewing to online,” commented Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee.
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