Neil Bentley is Deputy director-general of the CBI
The UK business lobbying group, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), has called for support from both the BBC and the government to help the country’s content industry to export more, particularly to the English-speaking world. The CBI was lobbying ahead of the UK’s forthcoming Communications Bill, which will introduce new updated legislation covering telecommunications, broadcasting and the media in the online digital age. The CBI’s Deputy Director General, Neil Bentley, called on the government to “think big” before publishing the Communications Bill, and to be ambitious about what one of the UK’s fastest growing sectors can achieve. Bentley cited recent export successes such as the award-winning period drama Downton Abbey produced by the UK’s leading free-to-air commercial broadcaster ITV, which had been screened in over 200 countries, stating that the country needed to build on such high-profile successes.
The CBI urged the government to ensure that media regulator Ofcom maximized the potential of the UK media sector outside the UK. He also called on BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of public broadcaster BBC, to help smaller content companies export and expand internationally. Currently, the BBC does outsource some production and so support local program producers that way. But now, the CBI wants BBC Worldwide to exploit its growing reputation overseas to help these companies directly, presumably either by including their content on the foreign versions of its BBC iPlayer online content portal, or perhaps by advertising on the website.
The CBI has also made some general recommendations, including ensuring that regulations support media and communications convergence, that they aim for a clear outcome, and work with the grain of consumer demand. It also recommended that Public Service Broadcasters, primarily the BBC, ITV and Channel 4, ensure that they remain relevant in a convergent digital world.