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BBC faces “significant risk” from changing behaviour says Public Accounts Committee

Report says BBC must strike balance between serving UK audiences and seeking to grow revenue in challenging market

The Public Accounts Committee has warned the BBC faces “significant risk” from the ongoing changes to the way viewers consume content.

The report says the BBC faces increasing challenges from commercial competitors including Netflix, Amazon and independent television channels. It suggests the Corporation’s commercial work is working in an increasingly competitive market.

The Committee says the commercial performance of these activities has been flat in recent years and the BBC faces significant risks to future performance arising from changing audience behaviour.

According to the report, the Corporation faces the challenge of “striking the right balance between immediate UK audience needs, which must always be its primary focus, and creating programmes and other ventures that can be commercially successful and appealing to international markets.”

“The twin roles of the newly-merged BBC Studios commercial subsidiary—both making content for UK audiences and generating financial returns from sales mean that it is now crucially important to the future success of the BBC as a whole,” the report continues.

The Committee’s chair Meg Hillier MP said: “We recognise the need for the BBC to take risks but it must be responsible, not reckless, in doing so. That means acting on the lessons of past mistakes and taking a robust approach to assessing new ventures. That should include improving the quality of information available to the BBC’s Board so that it can, on behalf of licence fee payers, make properly informed judgements.”

“The BBC must remember that licence fee payers’ money is on the line. It should never lose sight of its obligations to UK audiences. There is considerable scope for conflicts to arise. If the BBC decides to extend the availability of programmes on the iPlayer, for example, it may reduce opportunities for commercially exploiting those programmes.

“A balance must be struck and it is vital the BBC underpins its decisions with sound data and a clear-headed evaluation of the options,” concluded Hillier.