Speech by Tony Hall about BBC priorities for autumn 2017
Speech by Tony Hall, Director-General of the BBC about the BBC’s autumn priorities on Wednesday 6 September 2017 in Hull.
Hello everyone – and welcome to Hull.
I’m with the team here, first of all to say thank you for everything we’ve achieved with – and for – the city. But also to look forward to our final season of programmes celebrating Hull’s special year.
Each time I come here I just sense the excitement and the confidence of the place. I’m so proud of the part we’re playing in that success – all based on great partnerships, trust, and a shared ambition.
We’re amplifying what’s going on – bringing Hull’s arts, culture, and events to the rest of the UK and the world. And bringing some of our most iconic shows to the party – from R1’s Big Weekend to Hull’s first Prom.
Our new presenter, Kofi Smiles, and our teams at Humberside and Look North deserve huge credit. So from me – and from all your colleagues across the BBC – thank you.
What you’re achieving here underlines the importance of what all of us can do to reflect and represent the whole of the country. No-one does it like us and no-one can.
That’s why it’s right at the heart of our thinking, when we talk about re-inventing the BBC.
And it’s what brings me here today. I want to talk with you all about our priorities for the autumn.
On air and on screen
Let’s start with the creativity. First, what Charlotte Moore, Mark Linsey and their teams are doing.
Just last night, we had the premiere of Victoria & Abdul from BBC Films. In drama, Doctor Foster was back on screen, Our Girl’s returning shortly and there’s Rellik – taking a totally new approach to the thriller. We’re making all three of these brilliant, box set dramas available on iPlayer for an extended run.
Blue Planet II will do what only our Natural History team can: combining art and technology to great effect. I’ve seen some of it – I think you’ll love it. And from all of us: happy birthday to the team in Bristol. They’re celebrating their first 60 years this autumn.
Congratulations too to the BBC One team, awarded Channel of the Year at the Edinburgh Television Festival.
And, of course, this is the season that adds sparkle to all our Saturday and Sunday nights with the return of Strictly. And there’s heaps of brand new comedy. We’re re-imagining Porridge. I’ve seen some of the episodes – they’re great. And then W1A comes to a glorious close. That’s one I’m particularly looking forward to.
Of course, it’s 50 years since Radios 1, 2, 3 and 4 were born, and there’s so much to celebrate.
September is Live Lounge month on Radio 1. Another utterly brilliant Proms season comes to an end this weekend. And I’m really looking forward to Neil MacGregor returning to Radio 4 from October, with his new series on faith and society, Living With The Gods. Neil on radio is always a big event and I can’t recommend the programmes highly enough.
Fairness and pay
So creatively, there’s a lot to look forward to this autumn.
But, of course, we’ve got to continue to modernise – and a big priority as part of that is fairness and pay.
I know how important this is. I’ve always believed in fairness, equality, and an environment that’s decent, that values everyone and reflects the diversity of our country. The same should be true for every organisation, but I want us to lead the way.
We’ve taken steps forward in the last few years but, as I said before the summer, we need to go further, faster. I want us to be ahead of everyone else – an exemplar, if you like, at all levels.
I’m committed to this. I want to make sure we’ve got the right frameworks in place, that’s really important. But I also want to give you the information you need so you know where you stand. The onus is on us, not you.
We’ll look across each and every job because I want you to be confident that you’re paid fairly. I think we’ll be stronger – demonstrably fair – and more open as a result.
So, over the past few weeks, I’ve been listening and talking to many people. Our conversations have been invaluable and there are more to come.
I want to make progress quickly, so let me tell you what we’re doing right now:
- First, we’ve commissioned a report on our gender pay gap – and it’ll be independently audited.Our gap is primarily about the different balance of men and women at different levels. It’s based on the whole picture across the organisation, and the causes tend to be structural, and societal.
That doesn’t mean we should be complacent about it, and I’m determined to close the gap – a commitment I don’t think any other organisation in the country has made.
- Secondly, we’re doing an audit of equal pay covering our staff based in the UK. It’s independent. It’s being carried out by Eversheds and PwC, using tried and trusted methods from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.And it’s well underway – looking at job families, like-for-like work – across the organisation to make sure that, where there are differences in pay, they’re justified. If it throws up issues, we’ll deal with them immediately.
We’ll publish both of these reports as soon as they’re complete. And, to repeat, we’ll take action wherever we need to.
- Thirdly, we’re reviewing our approach to on-air presenters, editors and correspondents – particularly in News and Radio. Of course, we’ll be looking at pay but also representation. As I hope you know, we’ve set really ambitious targets – not just on gender, but on diversity more broadly.You’ll see changes over the coming months.
- And fourthly, we want you to get involved. I promised a consultation before the summer – and it’s underway. Please make your views heard – there’ll be plenty more opportunities to do so.
This is just the start. There are more things on the table – from the way we recruit, to the way we promote, to the way you can raise questions. And I’ll have more to say in the coming weeks and months.
These are difficult and often deep-rooted challenges. And they are not unique to the BBC. But I see this as a moment of real opportunity for us.
I’m determined that the BBC should lead the way – on gender, diversity, and equality.
I want to assure you that I’m personally committed to making these changes. I alsorecognise that you’ll judge this by what we do and not just what we say.
Expanding our global ambition
All that’s underway now. But also starting is something that’s fundamental to one of our key priorities – raising our global ambition.
We’ve just launched Uzbek TV this week. That’s followed by our first service in Korean, four new services in Africa and four in India coming in the next few months – across digital, television and radio.
All made possible by the ingenuity and brilliance of our engineering teams.
It’s the biggest expansion of World Service in decades. It means a great leap forward towards our aim of reaching half a billion people in the next five years.
And – when so much of the world is worrying about fake news, disinformation and propaganda – our trusted, independent reporting is more necessary than ever.
We’re adding 11 new languages in total, taking us to 40 overall.
And it’s important to remember justhowground-breaking some of these services will be. Pidgin, for example, is spoken by around 75 million people in Nigeria alone. And the fact that it is a language ofyoungpeople in particular is really significant in a country where around half of the population is younger than 18.
Personalising BBC services
Also this autumn we are making important new steps towards a more personalised BBC, reinventing what we do for a new generation.
I said before the summer that a bespoke BBC – uniquely tailored to each person, and available when and where they want it – will be critical to our success.
Thanks to the hard work of our teams, we’ve now hit our first 10 million people signed in.
That’s really significant. But how we grow this number still further, and how we get even closer to them, is going to be vital to our progress. That’s why, over the autumn, I’m bringing together marketing and audiences, the Licence Fee Unit – areas focused on close contact with our audiences, into a single team under a new Director – reporting to Anne Bulford.
I want us to step up our efforts on personalisation in the months ahead. So, in addition, we’ll be delivering more personalised content for our audiences, experimenting with voice platforms, to take you straight to the content you’re interested in, and developing a more personalised iPlayer Radio.
Strengthening local radio
Another priority I spoke about before the summer – and something I’ve already touched on – is our duty to reflect the whole of modern Britain and all of its voices.
It’s a responsibility that has never been more important.
Ideas of division and difference are dominating our national debate like never before. And in a Britain that is characterised as increasingly fragmented – politically culturally, and geographically – our role in helping communities to understand what we have in common and what makes us different is absolutely vital.
Standing here in Hull, I don’t need to remind you that it’s the BBC’s network of local radio stations that are right on the front line.
I feel very strongly about our local services – in fact, I’m now just three stations away from having been to all of them. I’ll complete the round in time to mark 50 years of BBC local radio in November. That’s the right moment to celebrate the dream of the man who invented local radio – Frank Gillard.
But I also want it to be a moment we look forward. The moment we set out how we plan to ensure that our local services will become even more relevant and valued in the digital age.
And, of course, we’ve got ambitious plans for the nations, with new investment in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland – all of which we’ll be working on over the autumn.
Securing the future of British content
Finally I want to talk about something you’ll recognise as one of my biggest concerns in recent years. And that’s the future of British content in an increasingly competitive, increasingly global media environment.
We know that the US media giants – with their vast budgets and the big moves they are making into what has traditionally been our space – are bringing huge new pressures to bear.
That’s why we’ve spent the summer thinking very hard about what this all means for the future.
We’ll be publishing our analysis in the next few weeks, looking at the likely costs to the UK of getting this wrong – both in economic terms, and in terms of our cultural identity and influence.
But what is already clear is this:
We are the standard-bearer for British programming; the cornerstone of the UK’s creative industries; and we have a vital role to play, for Britain, in the years ahead.
The strength of our global brand; our unparalleled reach and share; our unique mission and values; our unrivalled track record of creativity and distinctiveness all mean there’s a huge opportunity for us. But, of course, it won’t be around forever.
This is why the success of BBC Studios is so important. The only UK producer with production bases right across the country; with a particular commitment to new talent, training, and development; and with the BBC’s unique public service mission and heritage right at its heart.
And it’s why everything that BBC Worldwide has been doing over the past few years is so vital too. It is essential that Worldwide and Studios work together closely to secure the future of British content, at home and around the world.
Getting that strategic relationship right – how they can work together in the best possible way – is another big priority for us.
So that’s what to expect in the months ahead.
And, to round the year off, we’ll be doing something really important for the next generation.
We’ll be taking charge of the Children’s Global Media Summit – gathering together the world’s most important content creators, tech companies, and policy chiefs in Manchester to help shape the future of children’s media.
The fact that they have come to us is a real tribute to the trust and belief they have in the BBC, and our unique ability to mobilise others around common goals.
It’s also a tribute to the strength of our children’s programming, and all the progress we’ve made, with the new investment and new creative ideas we set out earlier in the year.
This summit is a great example of what we’re doing to lead the way in reinventing public service broadcasting.
That’s the challenge, and a great opportunity, for us. We all know how precious this organisation is, and I know together we have the talent, the skills and, above all, the confidence to create a very exciting future.
I promised you when I started that our best days lie ahead. And I feel more certain, more strongly about that today than ever before.
If we continue to lead the way creatively, to innovate, to drive change across the organisation, we can be even stronger for our audiences, for Britain.
Thank you for everything you’re doing.