BBC boss: We need to modernise to connect with more people

BBC boss Tim Davie says the broadcaster has more to do to connect with all viewers.

The new director-general said many aspects of the BBC needed “modernising” to reflect the whole of the UK.

But he told a virtual Ofcom conference that the universal, licence fee model was the best way of funding the BBC.

He said that “socio-economic diversity, different types of people, different voices” was as big an issue “as anything”.

And he added: “What is Britain?… 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.”

Tim Davie, new Director General of the BBC
Tim Davie, new Director General of the BBC

He said trust in the BBC grew over the last year.

“But I get a sense in our research that there are certain people who do not connect with us,” he added. “‘Is the BBC for me?’

“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.

Channel 4 headquarters in Horseferry Road
Channel 4 headquarters in Horseferry Road

“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’.”

Davie said 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,” he 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.”

Asked about an increase in evasion, he said it “is marginally up… We’ve got 25 million paying households”.

“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”.