Hall: BBC should promote itself more

Tony HallTony Hall took over the BBC’s top job in April

Director general Tony Hall has said the BBC should be “more aggressive” and “less British” about arguing the case for the licence fee.

He said the corporation will use its “own airwaves” to tackle hostility towards the £145.50 cost in the future.

Lord Hall said a TV licence worked out at “just 40p a day” for the BBC’s news, drama, radio and online content.

But he told the Voice of the Listener and Viewer conference the message needed to be communicated more clearly.

According to media commentator Steve Hewlett, the BBC often uses its airwaves “to promote itself as an institution” – with campaigns such as 1997’s Perfect Day video.

“Where the distinction comes is if the BBC uses its airwaves to promote its own interests,” he told the BBC News website.

“Promoting ‘Your BBC’ is one thing,” he continued. “Promoting the BBC’s perceived corporate interests in relation to a matter of public policy is something else.

“The BBC shouldn’t be embarrassed about telling people what it does and what it’s there for. But to use its airwaves to promote itself in a more political way than that is potentially problematic.”

‘Too powerful’

Lord Hall, who took over the corporation’s top job in April, said the BBC was currently providing better value for money than it had done for 20 years.

He revealed he had a team working on ways to promote the BBC’s position, in the run-up to charter renewal negotiations in 2016.

“We’ve got to get aggressive, frankly, about making this case to people,” he said.

He argued that, adjusted for inflation, the licence fee had dropped in price over the last 20 years – from £147 in 1993, to its current level of £145.50.

At the same time, audiences have seen the number of services increase – with four times as many television channels and twice as many national radio stations, compared to 1993.

“We are delivering more without costing more and will continue to do that. In fact, as the licence fee is frozen – with no account taken of inflation and it’s paying for more things – it will cost you less,” said Lord Hall.

However, faced with the task of saving the corporation more money he warned: “We must not stretch the elastic too thin.”

He said the BBC was currently going through budgets in detail to get a clearer understanding of where its money was going, but added it was “too early to get into discussions about ‘can you dump this or dump that?'”

Earlier this month, David Dimbleby said the corporation needed to “redefine” its role and examine “whether it is too powerful for its own good”.

The Question Time host told Richard Bacon’s Five Live radio show that the BBC could “maybe cut back a bit on its number of television channels”.

Speaking on Wednesday, however, Lord Hall said he was mindful of the backlash around the proposed closure of digital radio station 6 Music in 2010.

“People will pick on things and say, ‘you can lose that’ and a whole lot of other licence fee-payers will rightly say, ‘that’s of huge value’.”

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