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BBC Trust: BBC quota system ‘not sustainable’

The BBC’s governing body has ruled that the UK pubcaster’s current production quota system is “not sustainable in the long term”.

Following a review of current supply arrangements the BBC Trust found the Window of Creative Competition will not be fit for purpose in the future with its current structure.

The WoCC currently guarantees 50% of all BBC commissions go to in-house producers, but the Trustees say there is now a “strong case for reducing or even removing” the caveat, and that there was “a strong case for increasing competition”.

The Trust cited the recent spate of production industry mergers as one key factor in its new position – just this week news has broken Zodiak Media and Banijay Group are close to a merger, for example.

Furthermore, “substantial growth in the independent production sector” had also made for changes to the marketplace. Indies are currently guaranteed 25% of commissions and can compete with the BBC in-house teams for the other 25%.

The BBC Trust, whose review covered television, radio and online content, said making changes to supply could be beneficial to BBC licence fee payers.

This comes after the BBC outlined proposals to launch BBC Studios, a new production group that would allow the BBC to produce for other channels and platforms for the first time in response to the new, heavily-consolidated UK market.

The plan also included provisions to increase the amount of indie commissions handed out. BBC Studios would be a wholly-owned BBC subsidiary, but would be much more independent of the parent organisation than previous incarnations.

The BBC is to deliver more detailed proposals to the Trust ahead of the 2017 Charter Renewal, which is considered one of the most critical negotiations in the 88-year-old organisation’s history as budgets are squeezed and debate over the licence fee rages.

Once the Trust has reviewed the plan, it will make a final assessment, at which point it may begin the regulatory processes needed for change.

“The current system has brought much-loved programmes from Bake Off [pictured] to Line of Duty onto our screens,” said BBC Trustee Suzanna Taverne.

“However, it was made for a production market that’s since undergone a transformation, and we believe that the evidence points towards making changes and increasing opportunities for competition.”