The BBC has confirmed plans to overhaul TV channel BBC Four by shifting its focus away from original content, as the British broadcaster’s programs and services begin to feel the squeeze of a £950 million ($1.3 billion) savings initiative.
The BBC published its 69-page Annual Plan on Monday, which details the corporation’s creative, strategic, and commercial plans for the coming 12 months. The document reveals that the BBC is on course to deliver £880M of savings by the end of March, which means it is 12 months ahead of schedule in hitting an £800M target it set itself five years ago for 2022.
The BBC now expects to save more than £950M by March 2022, but said the hardest cuts are yet to come, warning that “further savings will involve difficult choices that will impact programmes and services.” It follows a similarly grim prediction in January from spending watchdog, the National Audit Office.
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One service that will suffer as a result of the efficiency drive is BBC Four. Once the home of Charlie Brooker’s Wipe franchise, Emmy-nominated drama Burton & Taylor, and BAFTA-winning comedy Detectorists, the channel will now be repositioned as an archive service.
The BBC announced plans last week to double arts and music spend on BBC Two (once a heartland for BBC Four), but said in its Annual Plan that “this approach will necessitate a shift away from commissioning a high volume of lower cost programmes on BBC Four, which are less effective at reaching audiences on the channel and on iPlayer.”
It continued: “Instead, BBC Four will become the home of the most distinctive content from across the BBC’s archive. It will also remain the home for performance, such as the BBC Proms, BBC Young Dancer and BBC Young Musician.
“The proposed changes to BBC Four will build on the channel’s current archive content offer which already comprises 76% of BBC Four’s broadcast hours and 69% of the channel’s broadcast viewing hours.” The changes will also require regulatory approval, the BBC added.
In a pandemic year, in which demand for the BBC increased, the Annual Plan also showed that 90% of UK adults used BBC services each week. A record 33M people visited the broadcaster’s online services every week, including iPlayer.
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