Pitfalls of the BBC using independent production companies | Letter

Derek Wyatt, as a former member of the culture, media and sport select committee, offers a skewed perspective of the media landscape inhabited by the BBC (Letters, 21 September). He asks why it is not possible for the BBC to open areas up to independent production companies when the BBC has been open to such initiatives since April 1993 after John Birt introduced Producer Choice.

There are pitfalls here: the corporation can develop and broadcast popular shows in conjunction with independents but may not profit from their popularity. Look what happened to the Great British Bake Off, when the production company sold it to Channel 4; or Mad Men, which was lost when Sky bought all UK access to HBO shows. There will undoubtedly be more of this.

To claim that the BBC was late to the streaming market is a distortion of the facts. The BBC iPlayer was streets ahead of anything else when it launched at Christmas 2007. In the first fortnight alone there were 3.5m items viewed. The success of the iPlayer spooked the BBC’s competitors so much that they lobbied parliament for change; venal politicians hobbled its development allowing other (non-UK) companies to move in. It is unfair to compare the BBC to Amazon, Netflix or Google, which are able to run with large deficits. The UK government seems unable to take money from these companies, but funds its own policy initiatives by taking £10m a week from the TV licence fee.

Wyatt’s view fails to mention radio at all. This is a grave omission for someone who was a member of the culture, media and sport committee. He says there will be no licence fee in 2030. How will the government recover its £10m a week?
Steve Elliot


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