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The BBC To Lead The Way For British Film-Making

The BBC’s content director vowed to lead the way for British Film-Making and spoke on the dangers threatening “authentic British story-telling”.

The landscape of television and film is rapidly changing, with US cooperate giants such as Netflix & Amazon placing emphasis on accessibility, global appeal and profitability. Media service provider Netflix has more than 137 million customers worldwide and plans to spend $8 billion dollars on content by the end of 2018. In contrast, the overall investment into original British content has fallen by £1 billion pounds since 2004.

Speaking at ‘The Steve Hewlett Memorial Lecture’ held at Westminster University – a joint initiative be The Media Society and The Royal Television Society – Mrs Charlotte Moore warned how the increasing popularity of US streaming services threaten to undermine British content made for British audiences.

“In this world of incredible, unprecedented choice, the irony is that British audiences may find it harder and harder to choose the stories that matter to them most,” she continued. Mrs Moore explained how the rapid change in television is coming about through what will deliver the highest profits for companies, rather than what is best for audiences.

In 2010, the BBC licence fee – which cost £149.50 per year – was frozen for six years, which limited the amount of money the public service broadcaster was able to invest into programming.

“This is not just about the BBC. But one thing has become increasingly clear over the past decade: a smaller BBC means less British programming, less investment in British ideas and talent, and a reduction in the volume and breath of British content on offer to UK audiences.”

Mrs Moore shared her concerns about the ever-changing industry. She said: “I worry that the insatiable greed for data-gathering is actually serving the wrong master. Their entire businesses are focused on what they can take from audiences, instead of what they can give back. The BBC is different.”

As a public service organisation, the BBC is obligated to fulfil five public purposes as set out the by the Royal Charter and agreement; the constitutional basis for the BBC. These five purposes centre around the organisation’s core mission which is to inform, educate and entertain.

“A powerful emotional story. Real ambition and risk. A trusted teller [Sir David Attenborough]. This is the combination that made Blue Planet II the biggest show in years, hauling in audiences of all ages with more young adults watching, than watching The X-Factor.”

Last year’s Blue Planet II peaked at 14.01 million viewers making it the highest-rated programme of 2017, while the 2018 series of The X-Factor’s opened with 5.7 million viewers, the lowest rated opening show for the reality television competition since its launch in 2004.

Blue Planet II’s success is attributed to how it challenged viewers perception on plastic waste and global climate change – raising public awareness on issues of global concern. The nature documentary led to the program’s narrator, Sir David Attenborough, to meet with Environmental Secretary Michael Gove to discuss the issues which were brought up in the program. Earlier this year, Mr Gove said: “We’re going to ban plastic straws, plastic stirrers and plastic cotton buds and by doing so we’re going to make sure that we turn the tide, that the plastic that is clogging up our seas and oceans is effectively reduced so that our marine environment can be healthy once again.”

The awareness of how plastic effects our oceans (known as the ‘The Blue Planet Effect’) is said to have pushed major brands to become more environmentally friendly. Prominent high-street brands such as Starbucks and Pret-A-Manger offer discounts for customers who bring their own cups and have introduced recyclable straws, while sportwear manufacturer Adidas has released a line of shoes made from recycled ocean plastic.

“Telling the true story of climate change and human impact on our oceans, was not necessarily the most comfortable place for the BBC, but that’s exactly why we needed to be there,” stressed Moore. She continued by saying that by commissioning programs by algorithm – as do Netflix and Amazon – would not have led to the BBC shows that have made a real impact and which exemplify “authentic British story telling”. Moore referenced Blue Planet II, Three Girls and The Bodyguard (the UK’s biggest drama in a decade) as the most recent British success stories.

Tina McFarling, BFI (British Film Institute) spokesperson, said: “The BBC has long held a very important place internationally as a leading brand, as a developer of original television, it has made consistently successful television productions across all genres, from dramas to documentaries to comedy’s to children’s programming and that continues to be the case. You have to say the BBC would be a leading British brand.

“Just in terms of looking at its longevity, its creativity, consistently producing innovative, ground-breaking, distinctive programming that has played a part in people’s lives over generations here, which has informed the world about Britain, and about our culture. It speaks volumes, it’s really hard for me to quantify that for you.”

Despite Mrs Moore’s worries for the future of the British television industry, UK film and talent are ever successful on the world stage, according to research carried out by the British Film Institute. In 2017/18, UK film and talent won 33 major film awards, including 6 Oscars and 13 BAFTAs. Additionally, 80% of live action titles in the top 200 films have had British talent playing in both leading and supporting roles since 2001.

Mrs Moore concluded her lecture by stating: “We have the power to do something, we hold the future in our hands.”

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