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25/06/2002

BBC must stay relevant in fast-changing world: Dyke

In a speech to the Institute of Economic Affairs Conference, BBC Director-General Greg Dyke told the audience that in a digital age the BBC would have to stay "relevant" to justify licence-fee funding.
Mr Dyke said: "The BBC has no God-given right to exist. A glorious history doesn't guarantee a glorious future. The BBC has to stay relevant in a fast-changing world if it is to deserve the privilege of public funding."
Greg Dyke warned that the advent of satellite broadcasting and digital technology would ensure that the BBC would not become complacent about its future.
He said that the importance of competition in the British market could be seen in the introduction of ITV in 1955, which, he added, had spurred the corporation on to perform better in terms programme output.
"Back in 1955… the injection of competition galvanised it (the BBC) to work harder for viewers and listeners, developing successful shows on both television and radio. In fact, what many people believe to be the golden era of the BBC – the sixties – came as a direct result of the arrival of competition," he said.
On suggestions that the BBC had over-stretched its role as public service broadcaster (PSB) deserving of public funding (a funding method which Shadow Culture Secretary Tim Yeo questioned last week), Mr Dyke said that the draft Communications Bill cemented the corporation's traditional role in the PSB arena. More so, he said, in the digital age as there is a need to fulfil the PSB role "in a rapidly fragmenting media world".
He said: "The Bill sends a clear signal that the BBC is there to do something special – to be at the heart and soul of public service broadcasting – or the "venture capital" for the whole industry as Tessa Jowell put it – with a distinctive remit which quite rightly is more demanding than for other broadcasters."
Mr Dyke cited the main benefits of the licence fee as the ability to deliver coverage of big events (such as the Jubilee celebrations), screen sports events outside of peak hours, promote broadband and online connectivity not necessarily viable for private enterprises, and maintain an otherwise unwieldy radio and news broadcast output.
He added that subscription or a part-subscription bundle, as envisaged in Mr Yeo's alternative funding proposal, would "signal the end for the BBC".
On the BBC's joint bid with BSkyB for the free-to-air DTT licence, Mr Dyke said that digital terrestrial platform had only one more chance to survive, adding that there were four slots in the BBC proposal for another bidder such as ITV or Channel 4 to offer their programming.
BBC, www.bbc.co.uk
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