Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80-99)



  80. There is also a balance where some areas cannot receive DTT and until they can you cannot see what you are doing, so it is chicken and egg to some point?
  (Mr Dyke) There are two problems with DTT. We are still going to end up with the situation where 20 per cent of the population could receive it but will not be able to because they have not got good enough aerials. All the testing done in advance assumes that you have the up-to-date aerial, whereas most aerials have been there twenty or thirty years on the roof, so there is the problem of the aerials. There is then the problem of the 20 per cent of population which at the moment cannot receive it at all, and we have all sorts of quite interesting ways where on the day in time you can change that but that comes to the day of switch-off. The point is how do you make sure people have got the equipment the day before when they could not receive the signal, and that is one for the government and not us.

  81. But given the dilemma that exists around the service that lots of people cannot get, what guarantees will you make to the Committee about the 8 per cent of your budget of the licence fee presently spent on digital programmes? How much will that increase as a result of your DTT programming commitment? What is the cap on that figure?
  (Mr Dyke) When we got the licence fee increase there were four criteria—and these were laid down. The Government cannot tell us but the Secretary of State encourages us. One was BBC1; one was education; one was nations and regions i.e. outside London, all of which we have increased significantly, and the fourth was interactive and digital programming. There will not be in the remaining period of this Charter a significant increase in our spend on digital services because there is not any more money as a percentage. That is unless we get BBC3. BBC3 will be a jump and after that you will not see an increase.

  82. A jump by how much?
  (Mr Dyke) I think Choice costs us £50 million and I think it is about £90 million, so it is about £40 million.

  83. Just quickly, you were saying that News 24 has had a bigger audience—I do not know whether it is reach or share but bigger audience—in the last few months but you were saying it is because it has a million other people watching it on DTT?
  (Mr Dyke) I doubt whether there is a million watching on DTT these days.

  84. But were you telling the Committee it had a bigger share because it is on digital and on DTT, whereas Sky is only on—?
  (Mr Dyke) Exactly.

  85. So it is not entirely fair?
  (Mr Dyke) Exactly. It was mea culpa, not yours. I was saying, yes, but you have to be careful because they are not in DTT homes but because of the services they are going to put on the Crown Castle licence you will see Sky News on there and that will change the audience base again, and I suspect Sky will be there or thereabouts. Our hope is that you can get five million DTT homes over about five years.
  (Mr Davies) I think the trend, just to be clear, is that News 24 has been gaining viewers relative to all the other 24-hour channels.

  86. Because you give it away free on lots of platforms.
  (Mr Dyke) So is Sky News, of course.

  Chairman: We must move on.

Ms Shipley

  87. As you know, the Chairman requires us to have a page reference so I am really pleased to have spotted on page 6 a logo for CBeebies which gives me the opportunity to congratulate you on an excellent launch which I attended, and stayed for hours and hours which is incredibly rare for me, and you know why I stayed for hours, I am sure, and it was very good, in Battersea Park as I recall. I will now move on to refer to page 56, where there is a nice little picture of the Tweenies. I asked ITV executives when they came whether they did public service broadcasting for children and they said, "Oh, yes, all their children's television was public service broadcasting", and I said, "How do you justify all the advertising", and they squirmed all over the place and are continuing to squirm. Now, in your case, you are public service broadcasting for children—excellent—but what about all that nasty merchandising? How do you justify that?
  (Mr Davies) It is something that does sometimes worry me. If I thought that CBeebies especially but also CBBC existed in any sense to promote merchandising as a prime objective I would be very concerned indeed, but I think it is different if we are making programmes which are successful for young children—and, like you, I have young children. To make available the potential to purchase soft toys does not strike me as stepping over the threshold of unacceptable commerciality but it does need to be watched and I know exactly what you mean having young children myself.

  88. I would certainly say it is not in the league of all the teeth-rotting stuff that surrounds things like Blue Bear and that sort of really seriously dangerous, I find, appalling food advertising around ITV's programming for little children, but it is commercialising children's television and merchandising. I take your point that you are concerned so at what point would you say the BBC would have to stop? Where is its threshold?
  (Mr Davies) Certainly if the impulse for the programme was going in the wrong direction, in other words if BBC Worldwide were desirous of selling soft and cuddly toys and they then persuaded CBeebies to make a programme which essentially helped them do that, that would be the wrong way round.

  89. So where structurally does that very wide comment come into your organisation? Who is aware that it is that way round?
  (Mr Davies) Both sides are very aware. It is in the commercial guidelines given to both sides. If it were the other way round, I know Greg would be concerned and so would the Governors.

  90. What about the sheer quantity of merchandising that is packaging programmes now? Have you a threshold for that?
  (Mr Davies) What do you mean?

  91. Well, if you have a successful programme like the Tweenies, there is a massive amount of merchandising around it. Where is your threshold? How far would you go?
  (Mr Dyke) We look at the quality and we look at what is being done until we think it is beneficial, rather than necessarily damaging.

  92. Beneficial? It might be nice or it might be firm, but beneficial for whom?
  (Mr Dyke) You are not including videos then? Because videos are massively beneficial to children. I have just got through that age, my children are getting too old, but we know children watching videos for the 92nd time—

  93. Beneficial to parents!
  (Mr Dyke) Yes, but a lot of the programming we produce and commission for children of that age has an educational input.

  94. And the bags and the beakers and the merchandising.
  (Mr Davies) I know exactly where you are coming from, Ms Shipley, and I have a lot of time for where you are coming from. However, another way of looking at it would be that many families would find it odd if Disney were making Mickey Mouse available in the same way and the Tweenies or the Teletubbies were not at all available when their kids wanted them, so I think you have to look at it from that angle as well.

  95. So where is your threshold?
  (Mr Davies) I do not think we have overstepped it on the Tweenies or the Teletubbies but we have to keep it in—

  96. You would not know if you have overstepped it because you do not know where it is.
  (Mr Davies) I do. I have a lot of Tweenies and Teletubbies.

  97. So where is it then?
  (Mr Davies) I am not sure I can define it. I cannot measure it in terms of Teletubbies.
  (Mr Dyke) We have a system whereby everything that is going to be marketed related to a product comes in to a department who look at it and say, "Do we think this is in any way damaging?", so they lay down a threshold.

  98. So you have a quality threshold but not a quantity one?
  (Mr Dyke) That is right.

  99. At the top of page 56 it says that commercial activities contributed over £100 million to the BBC. Is that profit?
  (Mr Davies) No.
  (Mr Dyke) It is cash coming into the BBC.
  (Mr Smith) It is net cash coming from all our commercial activities.

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