More of less: the dilemma facing the BBC

LB’S NOTE: TV viewing habits are in flux, for all practical purposes (notice that I didn’t say “literally” although this probably would be sentence in which that word would apply) changing every moment.

This of course has a huge effect on creatives, as in, “WTF? Who’s our audience? What does it want? What should we create?” and possibly an even bigger effect on the gatekeepers of the world. This interview with Tim Davie, new director general at the BBC explains.

This is a “director general?” Where’s his uniform? And his medals…?

by Jim Waterson

When Tim Davie used his first speech as the director general of the BBC to announce he wanted to have “more impact by making less”, staff immediately began sending round a clip from the sitcom W1A in which clueless BBC management attempt to implement a “more of less” programme.

“This is about establishing what we do most of best and finding fewer ways of doing more of it less,” says a character in the BBC’s satire of its own corporate structure, to general befuddlement from those in the room.

On Tuesday Davie tried the same pitch for real, using the launch of the corporation’s annual report to set out what he wants to see less of under his leadership of the BBC. In his vision of the future there will be fewer middle-managers earning big salaries, with a drive to reduce the BBC’s overall headcount. There will be fewer middle-ranking programmes that don’t qualify as “unique, high-impact content”. And there will be fewer BBC employees ending up in the pages of the Daily Mail after using their Twitter accounts to share their personal views on politics.

Davie’s problem is that the BBC is already having to deal with some major structural issues that are forcing it to make do with less. And they are harder to solve.

There has been a small but noticeable reduction in the number of active television licences by 300,000 in just 12 months, suggesting either licence fee evasion is on the rise or more people feel able to live without the corporation’s output. With the growing expectation the government will decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee – and the public’s finances stretched due to the recession – Davie acknowledges he needs to increase the BBC’s commercial revenue fast or face making even more cuts.

There is also the continued failure of a successful plan to win over young audiences, with the latest incarnation being a return to traditional television for BBC Three….

Read it all at