ITV chief calls BBC 'lazy' for rising content acquisitions
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Magnus Brooke, ITV’s director of policy and regulatory affairs, accused the national broadcaster of a shift in its programme strategy in recent years, moving towards acquiring TV shows produced abroad. He warned the approach by the BBC was a waste of licence fee money and did not offer Britons the service they deserve from the country’s national broadcaster.
The TV exec criticised the corporation for unnecessarily competing with commercial broadcasters when it should be focused on providing a bold alternative.
“One area where we do have concern is around acquisitions because that really is a lazy thing to do from the BBC,” he told peers sat on the House of Lords communications and digital committee.
“You are literally buying US content off the shelf and what we have seen in the last few years is a significant increase in spending on acquired US content.
“And in that context you’re just competing with [ITV, Channel 4 and Channel Five] for content that is going to appear on terrestrial television in the UK but spending the licence fee on that.”
He said the broadcaster had spent as much as £150 million of its budget last year on acquiring content.
TV owners are currently required to pay £159 a year for a TV licence, with the money used to help fund the BBC.
The corporation has found itself under growing pressure in recent years to justify the value of the fee.
Mr Brookes’ criticism about the BBC’s use of the money came while he was giving evidence to the parliamentary committee’s inquiry into the future funding of the broadcaster.
“Distinctiveness ought to be the key to the BBC’s remit,” Mr Brookes added.
“The way you achieve a mass audience: do you do it by derivative programmes, by buying in formats, buying in programmes?
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“Or do you do it by inventing new formats, inventing new programmes, by using new British talent rather than the tried and tested?
“Do you take more risks? Because ultimately that’s what the licence fee allows you to do.
“That’s what we think the BBC should do.
“Of course, it’s easy in a very competitive market to not do that, in fact, it’s easier not to do that. So, there’s a constant need for challenge and pressure to make sure the BBC is kept honest.”
The BBC has made a number of high profile acquisitions in recent months, including a revamp of the US series Gossip Girl and 189 episodes of the animated children’s TV series Pokemon.
There are fears the corporation could spend even more money buying in programmes from other countries in order to fill the schedule for its newly relaunched BBC Three channel.
Mitchell Simmons, vice president at Paramount Global which owns Channel 5 agreed with Mr Brooke’s assessment, saying: “Certainly we feel there’s an issue around the current BBC strategy.”
He added: “We would also question whether it is a better use of BBC money.”
Express.co.uk has contacted the BBC for comment.
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