The new BBC Charter, due to be signed off imminently, is accompanied by a Framework Agreement which contains detail on the BBC’s responsibilities. 

On radio production, the new Agreement contains the requirements that the BBC must make a minimum 60% of ‘relevant’ hours (i.e. non-news and news-related current affairs, repeats etc.) open to competition from both in-house and indie producers.

This recognises the independent sector’s passion for, and commitment to, ensuring that BBC radio is strong and fit for the future. At the heart of RIG’s campaign on Charter Review was support for the BBC, its independence and public service remit.

Regrettably there has been a certain amount of campaigning, based on inaccurate statements, about what this means and we are therefore providing a Q & A in response. In particular RIG is seeking to make clear that these proposals are fair and do not represent ‘privatisation’, ‘outsourcing’ or a threat to the high quality of BBC Radio, indeed we argue they will help to increase the range and diversity of the content available on those services. 

How will they increase competition for ideas, and why is it important?

·       The changes to BBC Radio commissioning, proposed by the BBC and agreed with by RIG, and now in the draft BBC Charter, will make by 2022 a minimum of 60% of non-news radio hours available for competition from both indies and in-house

·       This provides the independent sector with no guaranteesof extra commissions. To get commissioned, an indie will need a sufficiently good idea, plus be able to demonstrate a track record of producing sufficiently high quality content

·       Indie radio production companies already make some of the best known programmes on BBC radio, including Gardeners’ Question Time, Cabin Pressure and The Reunion on Radio 4, Radcliffe and Maconie on 6music, Pause for Thought and Pick of the Pops on Radio 2, and the Danny Baker Show Fighting Talk, and Not Just Cricket on Radio 5, and  Late Junction on Radio 3. UK indie-produced BBC shows regularly win awards, including ‘Audio Moment of the Year’ and ‘Sports Show of the Year’ at the Radio Academy ARIA awards on 19th October. A UK company, TBI Media, has won the New York Festivals’ ‘international production company of the year’, for four years running for large-scale BBC shows such as 5live Energy Day, Titanic Minute-by-Minute, D-Day: 70 years on and Battle Of Britain

·       Nevertheless many indie ideas are currently turned down, not through lack of quality or originality, but because the BBC currently has an 80% in-house guarantee – so Licence Fee Payers are not hearing those ideas. BBC in-house producers are not subject to the same competition for quality and will in effect still have a significant in-house guarantee after 2022

How will it help the BBC better serve and portray audiences around the UK?

·       The UK indie sector has companies based in far more locations than the BBC in-house  teams, which is increasingly important as the BBC seeks to properly represent people throughout the UK nations and regions. We hope that BBC radio commissioners will recognise that a greater use of indies will help to bring a wider range of talent, ideas, voices, stories and perspectives to all Licence Fee payers.

Will it be Value for Money?

·       The changes do not mean more expense for the Licence Fee payer. The BBC’s own data shows that an indie production costs on average no more than that of an in-house production. Guide prices for radio programmes are the same for both in-house and external producers, and both apply a small part of their fee to service overheads, meaning the same amount of money goes into the actual production - whether in-house or out-of-house. Bugets in radio are low and correspondingly radio indies are small - only one is part of a publicly listed company, therefore money paid to the sector is not going to shareholders with no interest in radio

Can indies ‘do a Bakeoff’ with the Archers?

·       Indies would not legally be able take away from the BBC programmes like the The Archers, nor would they wish to. Programmes like The Archers are BBC-owned ideas and therefore BBC intellectual property (IP). However, indies have demonstrated that they can add value to long-running shows such as Gardeners’ Question Time and we would hope over time to have more such opportunities, but on the understanding that the IP for the fundamental idea and format remained the BBC’s

Is it true there are no other markets other than the BBC?

·       RIG’s 2015 Business Census, produced by Enders Analysis, identified fourteen separate income streams in addition to BBC radio programme production. Indies have demonstrated the capacity to satisfy all these different activities, all of which utilise the core skills of high quality and original sound production. There is increased commissioning from commercial radio and new buyers of original audio production, such as Audible

Can the sector rise to the challenge of coming up with so many more programme proposals?

·       In terms of sectoral capacity, RIG currently has nearly 100 member companies, and the sector overall has around 150. Following the introduction of a 10% window of competition by the BBC Trust in 2010, indies were immediately able to succeed in winning 80% of those commissions – instantly almost doubling their output to the BBC. Indies averaged around 75% over the next few years  - this shows the sector can scale up to meet demand

·       The 60% target for competition does not come into effect until the end of 2022, providing plenty of time for the sector to have the necessary scale and expertise to pitch to make more programmes. The indie sector has accepted a long timetable to reach 60%, so the BBC can organise it in such a way that there is little cost to the Corporation. The BBC is already restructuring and Compete or Compare can be implemented in line with this. And of course, even when the 60% figure is reached in-house will continue to be able to compete for every single one of those hours

What about training and workers’ rights?

·       Indies are involved in training the next generation of producers, through the RIGtrain[1] programme, so far providing over 900 learner days including a diversity mentoring scheme. Around 60% of learners have been women and around 15% BAME and 5% disabled. Also as indies are small and working on a wide variety of projects, they are a fantastic training ground in their own right, teaching a multiple range of audio production skills on the job. RIG strongly recommends to its members that they apply the same terms and conditions for employees as used by the BBC

What does Parliament think?

·       The Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee’s long-running inquiry into BBC Charter Review concluded that: ‘We agree with RIG’s suggestion that the arrangements in relation to radio production should be written into the Framework Agreement’[2]

Appendix 1


Excerpt from Draft BBC Framework Agreement    September 2016 - Cm9332


7. Television, radio and online production

(1) The BBC must secure competition between BBC producers and external producers (whether independent producers or not) as follows-


(a) in relation to making relevant television programmes-


(i) the BBC must secure competition for at least 40% of the in-house guarantee and 100% of the WOCC by 31st December 2018; and


(ii) the BBC must secure competition for 100% of the in-house guarantee and 100% of the WOCC by 31st December 2027;


(b) in relation to making relevant radio programmes the BBC must secure competition for at least 60% of Total Relevant Broadcasting Time by 31st December 2022; and


(c) the BBC must secure competition for 100% of relevant online material by 31st December 2027.


(2) In complying with subparagraph (1), the BBC must ensure there is genuine competition between BBC producers and external producers (whether independent producers or not) on a fair, reasonable, non-discriminatory and transparent basis for the right to make all relevant television, radio programmes and relevant online material, and must evaluate any such bids on a fair, reasonable and non-­discriminatory and transparent basis.

(3) For the purposes of this paragraph-


“BBC producer” means any in-house producer of the BBC and any commercial subsidiary of the BBC established to carry out the activity of making television programmes;

“EBU material” means material supplied by the European Broadcasting Union;

“external producer” means any producer which is not a BBC producer;

“independent production” has the meaning which it has for the purposes of paragraph 1 of Schedule 12 to the Communications Act 2003 and “independent producer” shall be interpreted accordingly;

“in-house guarantee” means the guaranteed allocation of air time to programmes made by the BBC under clause 56 of the 2006 Agreement;

“network radio” means Radio 1, 1Xtra, Radio 2, Radio 3, Radio 4, BBC 4 Extra, BBC Radio 5, BBC 6 Music and BBC Asian Network;

“relevant online material” all online material included in the UK Public Services except-


(a) programmes included in the UK Public On Demand Programme Services;


(b) news and news-related current affairs material;


(c) any material where the BBC considers that complying with the obligation in paragraph (1) would not secure value for money;

“relevant radio programmes” means all network radio programmes included in the UK Public Services except­

(a) news programmes; and


(b) repeats, continuity, simulcasts, EBU material and autoplayed music.

“relevant television programmes” means all television programmes included in the UK Public Services except­

(a) programmes reserved for independent productions;

(b) news and news-related current affairs programmes;

(c) any programme where the BBC considers that complying with the obligation in paragraph (1) would not secure value for money;


“Total Relevant Broadcast Time” means the total amount of time allocated to the broadcasting of relevant radio programmes on the UK Public Broadcasting Services taken together; and

“WOCC” means Window of Creative Competition under clause 54 of the 2006 Agreement.




[© HM Government - Excerpt provided by Radio Independents Group (RIG) – yellow highlights by RIG]


Appendix 2


BBC Public Purpose on serving the nations and regions –

Excerpt from Draft BBC Charter - September 2016 - Cm9332


(5) To reflect, represent and serve the diverse communities of all of the United Kingdom’s nations and regions and, in doing so, support the creative economy across the United Kingdom: the BBC should reflect the diversity of the United Kingdom both in its output and services. In doing so, the BBC should accurately and authentically represent and portray the lives of the people of the United Kingdom today, and raise awareness of the different cultures and alternative viewpoints that make up its society. It should ensure that it provides output and services that meet the needs of the United Kingdom’s nations, regions and communities. The BBC should bring people together for shared experiences and help contribute to the social cohesion and wellbeing of the United Kingdom. In commissioning and delivering output the BBC should invest in the creative economies of each of the nations and contribute to their development.


[© HM Government - Excerpt provided by Radio Independents Group (RIG)]


[2] House of Commons Culture Media & Sport Committee. BBC Charter Review. Feb 2016, P30, para 104

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