Television Business International

Tony Hall reveals BBC Studios

Tony HallBBC director general Tony Hall has revealed the name and further details of the UK pubcaster’s new production division.

BBC Studios will handle all BBC productions – excluding sport, current affairs and children’s TV – as part of a plan to allow the BBC to produce for other channels and to broaden the BBC’s own commissioning process to expand indie opportunities.

Announcing the studio yesterday, Hall rejected calls for the BBC to become a “publisher broadcaster” and end in-house production, and added: “Production is vital to the future of the BBC, but the current model just won’t last.”

Hall said he would push ahead with plans for BBC Studios to ultimately become a wholly-owned but independent BBC subsidiary, but added this was subject to discussions with BBC overseer the BBC Trust and the BBC’s licence fee charter renewal in 2017.

Hall first outlined plans to create the new-look production unit after a series of top-level mergers and acquisitions agreements changed the face of UK independent production, and in response to the various threats to its operating model the BBC faces.

“As great British content becomes harder to fund, the licence fee will become even more important,” said Hall in his speech yesterday at New Broadcasting House in London. “As American media giants colonise the world, supporting a thriving British culture will be essential.”

He added the BBC rarely funds more than 70% of its dramas, which include Wolf Hall and Sherlock, and 30% of blue-chip natural history shows. “Co-commissioning and coproduction are great deals for our audiences – for the amount that Netflix spent on the first two series of House of Cards, we were able to make 14 drama series,” he said.

Hall warned against a “sleep-walk into decay” that would see the BBC “punching below its weight abroad, and Britain diminished as a result… which means a UK dominated by global gatekeepers, partial news and American taste-makers”.