Victoria Derbyshire viewers 'more male and older than you think', says Tony Hall

The BBC director general, Tony Hall, has defended the decision to axe the Victoria Derbyshire show as part of the latest round of BBC cuts, saying the programme’s audience was “more male and older than you might think”.

The outgoing BBC boss told MPs the award-winning news show was a “very good programme” but that viewing figures had failed to justify the expenditure on the show. “It costs around £3m for an audience of around 300,000,” he said, adding that the viewing figures did not reflect its intended young and diverse audience.

In response Derbyshire tweeted that her eponymous programme, broadcast on BBC2 and BBC News, reached a far wider audience online: “This completely ignores the rest of our figures – last month interviews/stories from our TV programme were viewed 20 million times online.”

Victoria Derbyshire

This COMPLETELY ignores the rest of our figures – last month interviews/stories from our TV prog were viewed 20 MILLION TIMES online – stories & ints that wouldn’t have been commissioned without our on-air programme. On our FB page three quarters of our viewers are women.

March 12, 2020

The show was axed this year as part of a broader range of BBC cuts that have resulted from the corporation’s funding deals with the government, with 450 jobs set to go across the news division.

Lord Hall, who will step down as director general later this year, also said the BBC was facing up to the prospect that some of its services could be temporarily “out of action” if the corporation’s staff were hit hard by coronavirus, but that the BBC was “intent on keeping absolutely everything open” to aid the public during the crisis.

“You could imagine a local station or some other part of our news operation being out of action for a period,” he said. “We’re also looking at our resilience, if a service was to be hit for a while. We have to make sure our news services keep transmitting on television and on radio.”

“At the moment we are intent on keeping absolutely everything open, all our networks going, because we know that globally, nationally and locally, people turn to us for information, as they did during the floods.”

The Tory MP Julian Knight, the new chair of the digital, culture, media and sport committee, suggested the BBC was not reflecting the UK’s cultural diversity, in an apparent reference to the belief it does not reflect the views of Brexit voters outside London. “You’re just too woke,” he said. “Are you just too woke as an organisation?”

Hall, who appeared baffled by the term, said the BBC should aspire to represent every single strand of opinion in the country. “I believe that we should be diverse in all that it means,” he said.

The deadline for applications to replace Hall as director general closed on Wednesday, with MPs told that his replacement would definitely be in place by the end of the summer.

On the government’s consultation on whether to decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee, Hall said the change was not appropriate under the current funding system. He said turning it into a civil offence would also remove the flexibility magistrates have to consider people’s circumstances while setting appropriate fines.

He said the BBC would endeavour to avoid dragging over-75s through the court system when many of them start having to pay for a TV licence later this year, although it was “conceivable” that some people in their 80s and 90s could find themselves prosecuted for not paying.

Hall confirmed there were still 11 equal pay cases involving BBC women heading to employment tribunals and defended the decision to unsuccessfully fight Samira Ahmed’s £700,000 claim. “We have been doing the honourable thing throughout,” he said. “I’m not going to get into whether it was possible to settle the Samira Ahmed case. There are occasions when you should test things.”

In response to a question asking if he was aware the BBC was competing for the attention of younger audiences with the popular YouTube channel Dude Perfect, Hall said he was not aware of it but would endeavour to watch the channel, known for its bottle-flipping tricks.


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