Veteran broadcaster Andrew Neil told the Lords Communication and Digital Committee that rival commercial and foreign broadcasters have “far slicker studios” and “far better graphics presentation”.
Neil appeared in front of peers to talk about BBC funding, where he argued for a dual-funding model for the BBC. He had previously suggested a two-tier split between public funding and subscription. News, children’s, arts and cultural content would remain free to all users.
Comparing the appearance of BBC News with US and French broadcasters like TF1, Neil said BBC News was being left behind. Rivals had better overall presentation.
Neil argued the licence fee had become a “strait-jacket” on BBC resources. But he said his comments about BBC News was not an attack on BBC journalism. He commended the BBC’s coverage on topics including the Ukraine War.
The BBC has been restricted with what it can do in terms of on-screen presentation, due to funding constraints. It’s famous striped globe logo was introduced in 2008, at a cost of £500,000. Its main news studio was introduced in 2013, when the BBC moved to New Broadcasting House. To cut costs further, the BBC has automated many processes, which occasionally result in gremlins with cameras and on-screen graphics.
During the course of the past decade, the number of staff has been cut. Notably, regional news services are run on much smaller staff numbers, leaving no margin for absences. This has resulted in off-peak regional news bulletins being shared across regions on a number of occasions during the past couple of years.
The BBC has already promised changes to its news output. Its annual plan for 2022-23 confirms a refresh for BBC World News and regional news programmes. It is also preparing to bring back Studio B in to service. The studio was previously used for shows including Newsnight and Victoria Derbyshire. It was mothballed at the start of the pandemic.