The BBC needs to become an internet pioneer says director-general

In a speech today Tony Hall calls for a universal licence fee and a “myBBC revolution” that will allow the audience to become schedulers

Director-general Tony Hall has said that the BBC must become an internet “pioneer” if it is to survive in the digital age.

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In a speech due to be delivered this morning [Monday], Lord Hall also promises “far-reaching plans” after this May’s general election regarding the use of people’s personal data, and online recommendations to enable “the audience to become schedulers”.

More details are expected to be revealed post-election but he will sketch out the policy shift today with a promise that the BBC wants to help guide people “to the best of the BBC’s content about the Tudors or radio shows about historical novels…. The potential is huge to let our audience become schedulers.”

Hall continues: “This is the start of a real transformation – the myBBC revolution. How to reinvent public service broadcasting through data. But we will always be doing it the BBC way – not telling you what customers like you bought, but what citizens like you would love to watch and need to know.”

The speech, which will be delivered at the BBC’s New Broadcasting House, welcomes aspects of last week’s Culture Select Committee report into the future of the BBC. In particular, it responds to proposals to adapt the licence fee to changing viewing habits.

“We’ve always said that the licence fee should be updated to reflect changing times. I welcome the Committee’s endorsement of our proposal to make people pay the licence fee even if they only watch catch-up television. The committee has suggested another route to modernising the licence fee – a universal household levy.

“Both proposals have the same goal in mind: adapting the licence fee for the internet age. This is vital. Because I believe we need and we will need what the licence fee – in whatever form – makes happen more than ever.” 

But Hall says replacing the licence fee with a subscription would cost the British broadcasting industry as a whole.

“The BBC is at a crossroads. Down one path lies a BBC reduced in impact and reach in a world of global giants. Damaging the UK’s creative industries. A sleep-walk into decay for the BBC, punching below its weight abroad and Britain diminished as a result. Which means a UK dominated by global gatekeepers and American taste-makers.

“Down the other path is a strong BBC helping bind the country together at home and championing it abroad. A British creative beacon to the world. Providing a universal service for a universal fee. An internet-first BBC which belongs to everyone and where everyone belongs. A BBC celebrating its hundredth birthday but with its best days ahead of it.  

“In the end, the choice will be that simple. The BBC has never been afraid of debates about its future. What we do is undeniably good for Britain and the British public. And will become even more so in the internet age.”

Read more: What does the Future of the BBC report actually mean for viewers?

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