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Best of British: How the BBC powers the UK’s creative industries – TUC

May 12, 2016

BBC 2With the government announcing changes to the BBC, especially after it didn’t even listen to Radio Times readers, this report is timely and underlines the public service ethos that is in danger of being lost to different interest groups. We want broadcasting, not narrow-casting.

The BBC is one of the best things this country has (Dominic Sandbrook talks of a ‘cultural superpower) and we do well to preserve it so that can continue to, in Lord Reith’s words, ’inform, educate and entertain’.

This report shows that far from crowding out the private sector, the BBC invests around £1.2bn each year working with more than 2,500 different creative suppliers.

That it comes from the trade unions won’t endear it to this government.

The TUC says that steps to weaken or undermine the BBC would cause real and lasting damage to the UK’s creative industries – the fastest growing sector of the UK economy.

BBCThe report highlights how:

  • The BBC contributes more than £8 billion to the UK economy – approximately £2 pounds for every £1 spent.
  • For every £1 of income it receives, the BBC invests 56p in the production of original UK content. By contrast, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 invest 44p from every £1. And private broadcasters like Sky invest just 7p.
  • UK investment in original British television content would be 25-50 per cent lower without the BBC.

The report also warns against meddling with the schedule of the BBC’s most popular programmes.

It says only the BBC would have thought to turn ballroom dancing and baking, two previously unfashionable British pastimes, into forms of mass entertainment for the 21st century. These creative risks have paid off handsomely with the show formats for Strictly Come Dancing and The Great British Bake Off being sold to 50 and 20 overseas broadcasters respectively.

The TUC believes that the BBC’s willingness to invest in new formats and artists is a direct result of its public service remit to champion originality and creative excellence and its unique model of funding through the licence fee.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Scaling back the BBC would be devastating for the UK’s creative industries and hurt many companies in the private sector. The BBC does not ‘crowd out’ its competitors, it forces them to up their game. Those seeking to diminish its influence, do so for political rather than evidence-based reasons.

“Ministers should be celebrating the BBC as one of the UK’s great success stories, not dreaming up new ways of cutting and weakening it.”

Lord Waheed Alli, founder of the Great BBC Campaign, said: “Having worked in television for nearly 25 years I can say the BBC is the gold standard in broadcasting. It takes risks when others would not. It invests in programming that cannot be justified by money alone.

“It makes us see our world and those who inhabit it with us in a different way. We would be poorer place if it was left to the market alone. We need to protect and stand up for this treasure.”

Christine Payne, President of the Federation of Entertainment Unions, said: “The BBC’s investment in technical skills, journalism, new writing and performing talent are unmatched elsewhere in the media and entertainment industries. Without the BBC, the UK’s position as a world leader in the creative industries would be under threat.”

The report is online here

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