BBC director-general Lord Hall has said the corporation needs to adapt its news coverage “to meet the changing expectations of audiences across the UK”.
Unveiling a raft of plans for the organisation’s future yesterday, he also said there are “some very difficult choices ahead” and some services will have to close.
Giving his first of a four-part response to the UK government’s review of its royal charter, he promised an “open BBC” that collaborates with rival media and the public, and serves as a “catalyst for this country’s incredible talent”.
In a speech in London, Lord Hall said: “As the pace of devolution quickens, we will need to adapt our services on television, online and radio to ensure that they fully reflect or are able to report the increasingly divergent politics of the UK.
“We will never give up our role in reporting the whole of the UK back to itself, but we also have to recognise that news in some parts of the country simply does not apply in others.
“We want to look at how, within existing resources, we might better configure the BBC’s news offering across the UK and, by the way, how across the range of our services more broadly, we reflect the nations of the UK to the whole UK.”
Among the plans unveiled yesterday were that each nation will be represented on a “pan-UK network service” with an interactive digital “channel” for each of the UK nations and a broader range of programmes and entertainment.
Lord Hall said Chancellor George Osborne’s July Budget had left the BBC with difficult decisions, including the reduction and closure of some services.
In a settlement reached ahead of the Budget, the corporation agreed to help finance spending cuts by shouldering the cost of free television licences for people aged over 75.
It will cost the BBC an estimated £750 million by 2020 – almost a fifth of its current annual income.
Lord Hall said that it meant the BBC would have to save 20 per cent of its income over the next five years, at a time when its share of TV revenues was likely to fall.
“The BBC faces a very tough financial challenge. So we will have to manage our resources ever more carefully and prioritise what we believe the BBC should offer,” he said.
“We will inevitably have to either close or reduce some services.”
But he failed to specify where the cuts would be made, adding that he may not have the answers until Christmas.
The director-general said that the internet had made it easier to find information but harder to know whether to trust it.
Describing what the “open BBC” would look like, he acknowledged that the mobile service it provided would need to be developed.
Lord Hall announced: “In the future, the BBC would set aside licence fee funding to invest in a service that reports on councils, courts and public services.”
The BBC’s proposal says the aim is to put in place a network of 100 public service reporters across the country.
Reporting would be available to the BBC but also to all “reputable” news organisations.