Lisa and I worked for The BBC.
I was there for 5 years as a consulting, bringing them the 'miracle' of Video journalism. We trained more than 1200 BBC staffers to shoot and edit their own material.
Lisa had already been there for more than a dozen years as an on-air talent, a producer and an executive. We know The BBC fairly well.
Thus, it is with a measure of saddness that we read in The Telegraph today that The BBC is facing some massive cuts in its content. To save more than £550 million, The BBC is considering closing BBC Four and the News Channel, among other things.
The BBC is unique.
In the US we have PBS (whch airs a lot of BBC programming). The difference between PBS and The BBC is that when the government set up PBS they didn't provide it with any source of income. So it has to beg and borrow and seek 'corporate sponsorship' for all of its content. It is a mess. It is a basket case. And even so, it does a pretty good job.
The BBC, on the other hand, since its inception in the 1920s, has been funded by what is called the TV License. Everyone who has a television in Britain must pay a yearly license fee of £145.50 (£49.00 for Black and White). Last year, those fees generated an astonishing £3.7 billion (nearly $6 billion) in revenue for The Corporation.
This was all fine when there were only a few (only 1 once) TV networks in Britain. Today, there are more than 600 channels in Britain. That is a lot of television, and the commercial networks (all of them, save The Beeb), have to wonder why they must fend for themselves while (whilst?) The BBC gets handing massive amounts of money.
By the way, if you don't pay your license fees, you get hit with a £1000 fine ($1500).
You can see that as the technology has changed, the means of funding The BBC has not, and this is a problem.
But instead of salami slicing The BBC to death - one round of cuts will inevitably lead to another - there is perhaps another way.
The BBC produces fantastic programming - perhaps the best in the world - as anyone who has watched it can attest. The reason they are able to do that is because they are able to take risks. The shows a pre-financed in a way. And, as there are no ratings, there is no pressure to deliver 'big numbers'. The BBC is, and always has been, a great place to experiment. It is one of the reasons Britain produces so much great television.
Since The BBC does not have commercials, there is absolutely no relationship between viewer numbers and revenue. None. This is completley the opposite of every other commercial network in the world.
So, once The BBC produces a great and popular show, what is the advantage of airing it on The BBC. Ego?
That's about it.
Because even with a vast audience, the accrued revenue is..£0.
But... take that great show and license it around the world (and even to the BBC's UK competitors), and now what is the accrued revenue from the intial investement of £££ by the BBC for development? Millions, if not hundreds of millions. THERE Is the payback. There is the revenue source that can offset the archaic license fee.
Turn the BBC from Broadcaster (with the exception of the news) to production company. Studio.
In a world of 600 channels in the UK (and about 60,000 worldwide), all ready to pay for content, who cares what channel the shows appear on.
Does this make sense?
I think so.
Will The BBC do it?
I doubt it.