BBC announces four shows put up for “competitive tender” - what is tendering, will it lower BBC licence fees?

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The BBC looks to offer four shows for a “competitive tendering” process - but what is tendering and will there be a trickle-down effect on the TV licence fee?

Four prominent shows that have been staples of programming on the BBC will now be offered up for “competitive tendering,” as the broadcaster looks to outside production companies to offer new ideas and future-proof the shows - alongside the financial assistance the new contracts would bring to the company.

In a statement released by the broadcaster, they have announced that Blue Peter, Cardiff Singer of the World, Eurovision Song Contest and Sports Personality of the Year will be those shows up for tendering, with BBC Commissioning set to invite pitches from producers with eligibility criteria and requirements set to be shared publicly for three of those productions in February 2024. Pitches for Sports Personality of the Year are due to take place later in the year.

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The move comes as the broadcaster continues its “commitment to securing top-quality programs and value for audiences” after the release of its “Compete or Compare” strategy back in 2014, which aimed to open up more of the BBC's television programs to competition. 

This strategy was in line with the Charter and Agreement requirements, pushing the BBC to consider external production options rather than relying solely on in-house production teams. The idea was to create a more competitive environment by inviting external producers to bid for the opportunity to produce certain BBC programs.

With the potential of production companies bidding for these shows comes the idea that there might be some increased revenue also for the broadcaster, as the almost never-ending debate over the need for a BBC Licensing Fee continues - especially during an election year.

In television terms, what is “tendering”?

Competitive tendering in television is like a job application process for TV shows. Imagine a TV network that wants to make popular programs, and instead of doing it all by themselves, they invite different companies to compete for the opportunity to create those shows. This is called competitive tendering.

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First, the TV network announces which shows they want to make and shares what they're looking for - in this case, the four mentioned BBC properties. Then, production companies send in their ideas or "pitches" on how they would make the shows. The TV network looks at all the pitches and chooses the best one. The chosen company gets the job to create the TV show, and they might need to negotiate some details with the network before they start. 

Will this have an effect on the BBC licence fee going forward?

This process could help the BBC address budgetary concerns; production companies may offer competitive prices to win the contract, and this can potentially result in cost savings for the BBC compared to producing the shows in-house or through non-competitive processes.

If the BBC can secure high-quality productions at competitive prices through this process, it may contribute to more effective financial management. This, in turn, could have positive implications for TV licensing fees, as cost savings from efficient production practices might help mitigate the need for significant fee increases. 

However, the direct impact on TV licensing fees depends on various factors, and any potential savings would need to be considered within the broader financial context of the BBC.

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