UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose


Don’t scale down the BBC, invest in it and make it more ambitious

25 February 2021

Investing and supporting in the BBC is now more important than ever, findings show from the latest report by the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP).


A recently published IIPP report, Creating and Measuring Dynamic Public Value at the BBC, highlights the need for the BBC to be better understood in the economy. While traditional economics sees public actors as market fixers, the BBC is a perfect example of a market shaper and co-creator. Although the institution has been accused of crowding out business, it has in fact, historically—through its cutting edge programming and technological innovation in areas like iPlayer, crowded in business. The report argues the BBC should not only be funded but also made more ambitious instead of scaled back. This point has also been highlighted in Professor Mariana Mazzucato’s recent article for Project Syndicate: Don’t Defund the BBC.

Indeed, the BBC is now more important than ever, with GB News soon entering the media landscape with an anticipated launch date of March 2021, the BBC must continue to stand clearly as a trusted source and one that delivers wide reaching public value. To do so, the BBC requires sustainable and assured funding, investment and support. While the BBC is a globally renowned and much loved institution, the broadcaster is constantly under attack by critics clamoring to defund it and reduce its capabilities. The latest example of this can be seen from the debates surrounding moving the BBC funding model from an annual license fee based one towards a precarious subscription model.

As is often the case with public institutions, the value of the BBC is grossly underestimated as we are not able to capture the true worth of these institutions that enrich our lives. The BBC is a creator and producer of distinctive content, but it also has developed innovative technologies, like the BBC Micro and BBC iPlayer, which helped establish technology standards for the media industry. These contributions are not fully being captured and recognised by existing metrics. We need to rethink traditional performance indicators, which focus on static costs and benefits, rather than the dynamic effects of market-shaping investment decisions. The BBC needs a dynamic public value measurement that is able to articulate the many ways in which the BBC shapes the market by enhancing diversity of suppliers and spurring innovation. Indeed, the BBC is an investor, inventor, innovator and consumer platform that has played an integral role in the development of the UK’s infrastructure for digital and media innovation over the last century - all while crowding in private business. The evidence and thinking behind this can be seen in IIPPs latest research report: Creating and Measuring Dynamic Public Value at the BBC.

As IIPP Founding Director and co-author of the report Mariana Mazzucato states in her Project Syndicate Op-Ed 'Don’t Defund the BBC':

Only by rethinking public value generation can we move on from debates about whether to fund public institutions to discussions about how to structure and use these institutions to strengthen our social fabric and build a more creative economy. The BBC is a great place to start this discussion.

Useful links