BBC boss Tony Hall is to call for global SVOD services such as Netflix and Amazon to be taxed and regulated in the same way as traditional linear broadcasters to avoid the latter competing with “one hand tied behind its back”.
Director General Hall is to use a keynote speech at the Royal Television Society’s London Conference, held on Tuesday, to double down on calls to level the playing field with the digital players.
In his speech, dubbed Tomorrow’s BBC: Meeting The Challenges of the Future, he will say, “It cannot be right that the UK’s media industry is competing against global giants with one hand tied behind its back.
“In so many ways – prominence, competition rules, advertising, taxation, content regulation, terms of trade, production quotas – one set of rules applies to UK companies, and barely any apply to the new giants.
“Despite the challenges, I have huge confidence in the BBC and it’s future. We know we can do more for Britain.”
Netflix and Amazon, which have a total of over 12M subscribers in the UK, have not previously been regulated by British regulator Ofcom as they do not run linear services, although the latter was forced to get a Television Licensable Content Service licence from Ofcom last month when it began airing live coverage of the U.S. Open tennis tournament via its Amazon Prime service. It is also set to air English Premier League soccer matches in the UK from next year.
Hall’s comments are the latest salvo in the BBC’s battle with its digital rivals and comes as the British public broadcaster has been stepping up its PR war against Silicon Valley.
In March, shortly before the BBC admitted that young people are spending more time watching Netflix than all of its TV services each week, Hall said that it needed to “accelerate reform” as it faces “crushing competition” and a “David vs. Goliath” fight. He admitted that the BBC is “not the biggest kid on the block anymore.”
“We can see now, more clearly than ever, that the global media landscape is likely to be dominated by four, perhaps five, businesses on the West Coast of America,” he told staff.
It has also been sending some of its top programming execs out to echo these remarks. Earlier this year, BBC Two boss Patrick Holland unveiled a slate of programs including dramas from Riz Ahmed and The Fall creator Allan Cubbit and said, “The titles I have talked about today could never have been commissioned alone by a Silicon Valley algorithm. You can’t write code that replaces human insight. We commission based on passion, on gut feel, on public service purpose.”
Hall will conclude, “We cannot allow any further narrowing of distinctive British content, or its crowding out by better and better-funded overseas competitors.”
The Royal Television Society London Conference will also feature a keynote speech from Viacom boss Bob Bakish and sessions feature ITV CEO Carolyn McCall, who will be expected to comment on reports it is in the bidding process for Endemol Shine, Entertainment One’s Darren Throop, All3Media’s Jane Turton, Sky’s Zai Bennett, Amazon’s Georgia Brown, Channel 4’s Ian Katz and Alex Mahon, Endemol Shine’s Peter Salmon and NBC Universal’s Jeff Machtel.