The Government will launch a review into the governance and regulation of the BBC, the Culture Secretary John Whittingdale announced yesterday speaking at the first day of the RTS Cambridge Convention.
Former Deputy of the Bank of England, Sir David Clementi, will conduct the review.
Introducing Whittingdale to an audience of senior television figures, BBC Director-General Tony Hall remarked, “John Whittingdale is one of those rare politicians who actually watched TV”.
In turn Whittingdale said he was ‘surprised’ that the Charter Renewal Green Paper was seen as a demise of the BBC:
“Had I been asked if I could live without the BBC,” he said, “I would certainly have said ‘no’. I cannot imagine anyone but the BBC commissioning the distinctive and brilliant QI which has now been sold around the world.”
Other programmes watched by the MP included Thunderbirds, Doctor Who and Humans.
All pictures by Paul Hampartsoumian
Piracy, said Whittingdale, is an issue affecting the entire British television industry, and he urged content owners to make it easier for international audiences to access British programming through legitimate means.
Though generally supportive of the breadth of services provided by the BBC, Whittingdale said it was important to look at how it sat against programming on commercial TV channels, asking whether “it’s sensible for [the BBC] main evening news bulletin to go out at the same time as ITV’s.”
This was quickly rebutted on Twitter by BBC News at Ten anchor Huw Edwards who wrote, “The viewers’ preference is clear. Night after night. By a very big margin.”
Earlier in the day, Viacom President and CEO Philippe Dauman pledged to increase spending in original and creative content in the UK, as well as on Channel Five News.
Dauman appeared unfazed by the shift to more fragmented viewing, referring to the old adage that content was king, and highlighting the success of Viacom sales in Canada, despite legislation meaning the company cannot own a channel in that country.
“The digital revolution is far more promising that it is perilous,” he said, “I promise you this: the digital revolution will be televised.”
The convention opened with a session chaired by BBC Director of Strategy and Digital, James Purnell, looking at the wider challenges for the future of the television industry.
The panel, made up of Studio Lambert chief executive Stephen Lambert, EVP MD of Discovery Networks UK and Ireland Susanna Dinnage, Professor of Professional Practice and Director of Tow Center of Digital Journalism at Columbia University Journalism School Emily Bell, Benedict Evans, Partner at Andreessen Horowitz and Stephen Nuttall, Senior Director of YouTube EMEA.
The panel were in agreement that digital would continue to be a challenge for programme makers and broadcasters alike.
Bell and Evans clashed over whether digital dominators such as Google and Facebook needed more regulation.
Evans argued that the competition was sufficient, while Bell remarked “It’s virtually impossible to compete against Google now. It’s so big. How can it continue without some kind of regulation?”
The panel also discussed how future audiences would deal with a proliferation of content; with Discovery’s Susanna Dinnage claiming live sports coverage had become exaggerated in its importance as appointment viewing.
Meanwhile YouTube’s Nuttall said it was important to help users find the content they were looking for, adding that television screens were the fastest-growing devices for consuming YouTube content.
The convention continues today with topics including the roles of the showrunner in drama and keynotes including Ofcom chief executive Sharon White and AMC’s President and CEO Josh Sapan.