Lord Hall of Birkenhead CB with LJMU Vice-Chancellor Professor Nigel Weatherill and Sir Jon Murphy
Director General of the BBC, Lord Hall of Birkenhead CB, delivered his Roscoe Lecture, ‘The BBC in the 21st Century’ looking at the issues of identity in Britain and making the case for the future of British TV.
In his address, he talked about how culture has a unique and extraordinarily powerful role to play in bringing us together as a country, and defining our identity to the world. Lord Hall considered the BBC’s role in providing programmes and content that reflect who we are: “We need to remind ourselves of everything that unites us… We need to work hard as a society to understand ourselves better”. The talk, delivered to a packed St George’s Hall, additionally provided an overview on the BBC continues to respond to issues like Brexit, terrorism and the NHS. He also praised local BBC stations for “not broadcasting to audiences, but broadcasting with them”.
Lord Hall also addressed the BBC’s mission to reflect as many different voices from across the country as possible, and made reference to the independent study by Ipsos MORI, examining what makes us feel divided.
He also warned of the risk to investment in British made programmes and content, posed by rising competition from online viewing platforms such as Netflix. He said :” over the next ten years we can expect a substantial gap to open up between the amount that is spent on UK content now and the amount that will be spent in the future. In fact, the report estimates that in real terms, by 2026, this gap will have reached £500 million. That represents over twenty per cent of what is spent today… Or, to put it another way, enough to make around 200 Sherlocks, and still have enough left over for nearly 100 Veras…
He added: “What this adds up to is not just a real risk to the volume and breadth of British content, but also – as the report warns – a potentially damaging impact on UK distinctiveness, risk-taking, and innovation.
We have to face the reality that the British content we value, and our audiences love and rely upon, is under serious threat.”
Lord Hall has been the 16th Director-General of the BBC since 2013 and chaired the Cultural Olympiad Board and he also joined the Board of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games.
Commenting on the opportunity to deliver a Roscoe Lecture and return to Liverpool, Lord Hall said:
“It is a real privilege to be part of this fantastic lecture series. As a boy from Birkenhead, just over the water, I’m always delighted to be back in Liverpool. Coming back to Merseyside is coming home. But one of the other reasons I love coming back here so much is that, as someone who has spent his life in arts and culture, this city serves as such a fantastic reminder of what culture can do.
“Liverpool has always been a cultural powerhouse and what it achieved as European Capital of Culture in 2008 to help reinvent itself in the eyes of the country – and the world – was remarkable. It certainly inspired me when I was chairing the national cultural festival that we staged alongside the London 2012 Olympics to help showcase the UK.”