BBC will go online-only over next decade, says director general

BBC will go online-only over next decade, says director general

Updated: 1 month, 20 days, 20 hours, 7 minutes, 53 seconds ago

The BBC is preparing to shut down its traditional television and radio broadcasts as it becomes an online-only service over the next decade, according to the director general, Tim Davie.

“Imagine a world that is internet only, where broadcast TV and radio are being switched off and choice is infinite,” he said. “A switch off of broadcast will and should happen over time, and we should be active in planning for it.”

Davie said the BBC was committed to live broadcasting but Britons should prepare for the closure of many standalone channels and radio stations by the 2030s: “Over time this will mean fewer linear broadcast services and a more tailored joined-up online offer.”

The future will involve “bringing the BBC together in a single offer”, possibly in the form of one app combining everything from television programmes to local news coverage and educational material. This could ultimately see the end of distinct brands such as BBC One or BBC Radio 4, although the programmes they currently air could continue online.

The director general accepted there is a risk that the BBC becomes just another online content provider in a crowded marketplace by abandoning its traditional broadcast slots on services such as Freeview or DAB radio: “Moving to digital is not the challenge in of itself, moving to digital while not losing most of your audience and burning millions of pounds unnecessarily is the challenge.”

Although the BBC’s television and radio channels continue to reach tens of millions of Britons a month, almost all of its outlets are seeing long-term declines in their live audiences. Davie has already announced plans to shift the CBBC and BBC Four to online-only, with other channels expected to follow suit in the coming years. Traditional television audiences remain high among older people but the average BBC One viewer is in their sixties, and younger viewers are drifting off completely.

A challenge is how to reach the millions of Britons – often older, poorer, or in rural areas – who do not have a strong internet connection and could be cut off from an online-only BBC.

Davie’s speech to the Royal Television Society included pleas to politicians and regulators to provide the BBC with more money and fewer restrictions on what it can do. The BBC is also starting to look ahead to the possibility of a Labour government giving it a more generous funding settlement after 12 years of Tory-led administrations imposing real-terms cuts on the national broadcaster.

In another sign that the days of the licence fee are numbered, Davie said he is “open minded” about finding a new model for funding the BBC. The government is already considering alternatives for when the current deal expires at the end of 2027. Many other countries have abolished their licence fees and replaced them with new funding models for public broadcasters, with options including direct taxation or levies on household broadband connections.

Sign up to First Edition

Free daily newsletter

Archie Bland and Nimo Omer take you through the top stories and what they mean, free every weekday morning

Privacy Notice: Newsletters may contain info about charities, online ads, and content funded by outside parties. For more information see our

Newsletters may contain info about charities, online ads, and content funded by outside parties. For more information see our Privacy Policy . We use Google reCaptcha to protect our website and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Davie also said the BBC needs more money from the government or there will be further cuts to its World Service output: “The Russians and Chinese are investing hundreds of millions in state-backed services. We have a choice to make.”