BBC to cut 1,000 hours of TV & increases savings target to $495m as licence fee freeze bites

Tim Davie (credit: RTS/Richard Kendal)

The BBC has revealed it is cutting 1,000 hours of programming from its slates in a bid to achieve a revised savings target that has soared from £285m to £400m ($495m).

The news emerged in the UK pubcaster’s annual plan, which was published on Thursday, and will see around 500 hours of sports programming being cut from schedules, partly because there are fewer major events this year.

The rest will come from “across the portfolio” and will make a considerable dent in the BBC’s annual “originated hours” output, which totalled around 12,500 hours last year.

The decision comes as the BBC faces considerable challenges to its model, largely because of the ongoing prize freeze of the TV licence fee, which has come at a time when programming costs have been rising rapidly.

The broadcaster said it had projected a deficit of £271m this year, which will then rise to £352m, forcing a rethink of the previous savings target that had stood at £285m.

The Tim Davie-led organisation said it will now look to find annual savings of £400m by 2027/28, with the licence fee freeze placing “significant financial challenges on the BBC at a time of high inflation and media super-inflation.”

Davie has previously outlined plans to cut back on the amount of programming at the BBC and “consolidate” under a single brand, with kids-focused network CBeebies closing and BBC News Channel merging with the BBC World News network.

The report added that there would be “more of these difficult choices to come this year, but we will make them with audience value at the forefront of our thinking.”

The squeeze will put further onus on commercial arm BBC Studios to increase its returns to its parent broadcaster. BBCS chief Tom Fussell told TBI earlier this year that expanding its acquisitions activity around the world was a key plank of its plans.

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