BBC boss Tim Davie today admitted the corporation needed ‘modernising’ to reflect the whole of Britain and must do more to connect with all viewers.
The new director-general also said the BBC would be ‘judged by action now’ on diversity and he had asked all of its leaders ‘how they can change their part of it’.
But Mr Davie in addition told a virtual Ofcom conference with other broadcasting chiefs that the universal, licence fee model was the best way of funding the BBC.
Wearing a pair of jeans and Adidas trainers while appearing at the debate in London this morning, he said that ‘socio-economic diversity, different types of people, different voices’ was as big an issue ‘as anything’, adding: ‘What is Britain?
BBC boss Tim Davie wears jeans and Adidas trainers as he appears at an Ofcom conference in London today alongside other TV chiefs including Maria Kyriacou from Channel 5 (left)
‘It can’t be that we’re just taking people from a certain academic track. We’ve got to have a broader sense of what intelligent reporting is.’
He said trust in the BBC had grown over the last year, adding: ‘But I get a sense in our research that there are certain people who do not connect with us. Is the BBC for me?’
Key quotes from Tim Davie’s Ofcom speech
- ‘We need more diverse voices and that is a challenge for every single institution, not just broadcasting’
- ‘I haven’t seen a model that beats the current one at the moment, a universally funded licence fee’
- ‘Speeches [on diversity] are great – but we need to be judged by action now’
- ‘I’ve asked every leader in the BBC how they can change their part of it’
- ‘We’ve got to have a broader sense of what intelligent reporting is’
- ‘The vast majority of households think it offers very good value. That’s what the BBC needs to focus on’
‘That’s about out of London, it’s about programming choices, who speaks for us, who we put up in the newsroom. All those things need modernising to represent what is a more diverse Britain.’
He said he was ‘not just talking about traditional’ concepts of diversity. ‘I’m talking about how secure you feel in your life, how comfortable you feel in your community, all of that,’ he added.
‘We need more diverse voices and that is a challenge for every single institution, not just broadcasting…
‘l have lit a fire on this. We won’t recruit in the same way. And we need to look more broadly across the UK so that everyone says ‘the BBC is for me’ and ‘my views are represented’.’
Mr Davie said: ‘Speeches [on diversity] are great – but we need to be judged by action now. I’ve asked every leader in the BBC how they can change their part of it… and if you don’t have enough diversity in your leadership, people don’t believe you.’
He also told how he believed that the TV licence fee model was the best way of funding the BBC. The current licence fee model is guaranteed until December 31, 2027 – the end of the current charter.
‘I haven’t seen a model that beats the current one at the moment, a universally funded licence fee,’ Mr Davie said.
‘The vast majority of households think it offers very good value. That’s what the BBC needs to focus on. Under my leadership, we’ll focus on that.’
Mr Davie was taking part in person in the Small Screen: Big Debate virtual conference (above)
Asked about an increase in evasion, he said it ‘is marginally up… We’ve got 25 million paying households’.
BBC has failed to connect with white working class audiences and must do more to make them feel represented, says head of diversity June Sarpong
The BBC has failed to connect with white working class audiences and must do more to make them feel represented, according to its head of diversity.
June Sarpong said her work to reach under-represented groups would extend beyond black and Asian people to include working class communities and their concerns, including immigration.
The presenter made the remarks at a virtual Ofcom summit where she also spoke about being the only black person in the room at BBC conference meetings.
She said: ‘Often the BAME audience gets a lot of focus, in that the BBC doesn’t represent BAME audiences enough, and we talk about young people.
‘But we know that we’ve had serious issues in terms of our connection with C2DE [working class] audiences and I think it’s about getting the balance.
‘As somebody who is an advocate for diversity, I’m always making sure I’m banging the drum for working class audiences because I come from a working class background, my parents were immigrants, we grew up in a white, working class community.
‘And I totally understand when it comes to immigration, that is the community that has actually lived it, and often we don’t have the sort of nuanced debate around this stuff that we need to.’
‘Yes, in a more competitive environment you’re going to get some erosion. We are in a good position,’ he said, adding that the numbers of people who value the BBC rose during the pandemic.
The panel discussion also heard Channel 4 chief executive Alex Mahon saying she was not concerned about any prospect of the Government privatising Channel 4.
She told the Small Screen: Big Debate virtual conference that the issue will ‘always be there as a question but it is not one that unduly worries me’.
Also appearing at the debate hosted by Sky News editor-at-large Adam Boulton were Dame Carolyn McCall of ITV and Maria Kyriacou from Channel 5.
It comes after an academic said that the BBC could do an ‘awful lot more’ to reflect right of centre views of people who back Brexit and do not like immigration.
Dame Frances Cairncross, an economist who led a review into the UK news industry, said yesterday that if the broadcaster wanted to be ‘accepted nationally’ it ‘could work a lot harder’ at showing these opinions.
She added that it would also help in ‘blunting the attacks’ of critics in the media, and that the BBC should do more to cover ‘populist views’.
The independent Cairncross Review, published for the Government in 2019, looked at the challenges facing high-quality journalism in the UK.
She said: ‘I do think the BBC could do an awful lot more to reflect the views of people on the right of centre, to reflect the views of people who are happy about leaving the EU, who don’t like immigration, the populist view.’
Mr Davie succeeded Lord Tony Hall as director-general at the beginning of the month.
He was acting director-general for four months following George Entwistle’s resignation in November 2012, before Lord Hall’s appointment, and previously served as the chief executive of BBC Studios.