BBC chief Lord Hall meets JMU Journalism

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BBC Director General Lord Hall gives the LJMU Roscoe Lecture at St George’s Hall. Pic © Matt Thomas LJMU

The Director General of the world’s oldest national broadcasting organisation found time to meet JMU Journalism students yesterday, as Lord Tony Hall visited Liverpool to make a landmark speech.

The head of the BBC was in the city to deliver the LJMU Roscoe Lecture at St George’s Hall, where he gave a stark warning about the future of the corporation and the threats it faces.

Originally from Birkenhead, the editorial, operational and creative leader of the BBC discussed what he labelled a £500 million content shortfall on the horizon.

Immediately prior to his speech, Lord Hall visited Redmonds to give a talk to more than 20 final-year undergraduates. He told JMU Journalism how happy he was to return to Merseyside, saying: “It’s great. I seldom get to come back unless there is a wedding or a death, unfortunately. But I love seeing the Pier Head. Thousands of people come to see it and are blown away, sometimes literally. It’s really good to be back.”

In his lecture, for which tickets had been fully booked-up in advance, he spoke of how he had been warned that the BBC might be headed towards a long-term serious weakening of its television output.

YouTube: Channel 4 News (2013)

Referencing a study published by Mediatique, Lord Hall said: “According to their analysis, over the next ten years we can expect a substantial gap to open up between the amount that is spent on UK content now and the amount that will be spent in the future. In fact, the report estimates that in real terms, by 2026, this gap will have reached £500 million.”

This, he said, was because traditional content producers like the BBC spend less on production than the new market players, such as Netflix and Amazon.

BBC Director General Lord Hall (centre) meets JMU Journalism students. Pic © Matt Thomas LJMU

He told the audience: “We know that Netflix were reported to have spent as much as £100 million on The Crown. That’s equivalent, by the way, to well over a dozen drama series on the BBC – from Sherlock and Happy Valley to Poldark and Line of Duty.”

Lord Hall suggested that the BBC’s more recent competitors have a focus on expensive, high-end content which appeals to a global audience. The Mediatique report warns that this could damage the volume and breadth of British television, potentially impacting on distinctiveness, risk-taking and innovation.

The 66-year old said: “We have to face the reality that the British content we value, and our audiences love and rely upon, is under serious threat.”

To combat this, Baron Hall of Birkenhead pledged: “That’s why we must continue to innovate, back new ideas, and take creative risks. We will never simply compete on money alone.

“It is why the reinvention of the BBC for the modern age is so important, and why we are working so hard on this right now.”

Twitter: Richard Rudin