The BBC has pledged to show a more diverse range of programmes than its rivals and to do a better job of reflecting the UK’s different nations as it seeks to reinvent itself to better compete with Netflix and Amazon.
The broadcaster’s first annual plan said it would air a “demonstrably broader range of genres in peak time than any comparable channel”, including more news during peak times than its rivals.
The document added that Radio 1 will play a “more distinctive mix of music” – and promised that the BBC will “rise to the challenge of better reflecting and representing a changing UK” with larger investments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Sir David Clementi, the chairman of the BBC, said the annual plan, produced for Ofcom, outlines how the organisation will “strengthen the core values of public service broadcasting for all audiences”.
The broadcaster has been criticised in the past for chasing ratings rather than focusing on its duties as a public service broadcaster and not investing enough outside London.
The BBC is publishing the document as part of its new 11-year royal charter, which involves the organisation being regulated by an external regulator, Ofcom, for the first time.
Under the new charter the BBC is obliged to outline to Ofcom its plans for the year ahead and how it will meet its public service obligations. The media regulator has already set the BBC a series of targets.
The plan includes an already announced commitment to the biggest investment in homegrown children’s content in a generation to keep up with the shift to online viewing, a year of science and technology programmes under the Tomorrow’s World brand and confirmation of a major new series called Civilisations, which will track human history.
Tony Hall, director general of the BBC, said the organisation’s biggest priority is to reinvent itself for a new generation, with more and more people watching television and radio programmes through on-demand or streaming services.
“Every part of the BBC will need to contribute to meeting this challenge,” he said. “The new funding we’ve announced today for our children’s services – the biggest investment for a generation – will help us ensure we can maintain our reputation for world-class programmes across our linear channels but also increasingly offer a personalised online offering for our younger viewers.”
This BBC said it would be stepping up investment in personalisation, with users of the iPlayer now having to provide their details before watching a show.
The plan also confirms plans to expand the BBC’s monitoring of fake news through its Reality Check service – which will refute popular stories on social media if they are false – and more programmes to showcase Hull as the UK city of culture for 2017. More broadly, the BBC commits “to rise to the challenge of better reflecting and representing a changing UK” with larger investments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Industry analysts say the BBC will have to find a balance between attracting new, younger viewers and protecting its heritage to compete with streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon.
Josh Krichefski, chief executive of media agency MediaCom, said: “The BBC’s investment in video, live online programming, vlogs, podcasts, games and apps indicates that it will place online at the very core of everything it does. In a digital world, this is a positive step in the right direction, but the key will be to attract younger audiences whilst also ensuring existing BBC viewers don’t feel alienated and that BBC heritage in high quality content is maintained.
“The likes of Netflix, Now TV and Amazon have spent many years building their offering and they have the subscribers and industry power to show for it. But even they suffer if viewers don’t respond well to content quality and storytelling.”