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BBC Annual Plan for 2017/18: Northern Ireland Focus
05 Jul 2017 : Katie McNeice
Following its pledge to bring its financial output to the NI region up to €75.7M by 2020, the largest investment in the area for twenty years, the BBC has now also published details of its yearly plan.

The document primarily divides itself between the BBC creative remit, its services’ contribution to distinctiveness and three-year strategy and work plan for 2017/18.

Across all areas the focus is to reinvent the BBC for a new generation, reflected in a robust addition to investment in children’s programming of just under €39M.

Tony Hall, BBC Director-General:
“Our ambition to reinvent the BBC for a new generation is our biggest priority for next year. Every part of the BBC will need to contribute to meeting this challenge. In this plan we set out our creative vision and some of the strategic decisions we will need to take to help us achieve that goal.”

Elaborating on its recent pledge to invest in Northern Ireland (an additional €12.5M), the BBC states the funding endeavours to enable the region to transform its digital output across news, sport and other areas, produce more ambitious drama, factual and comedy content and help boost its service to younger audiences.

Funding Outcomes
  • An enhanced digital service from BBC News NI, including enhanced news coverage at weekends
  • Greater coverage of local sport online, including live streaming of events across a range of sports
  • A 50% increase in commissioning spend on local television content, with more drama, comedy and factual programmes and events on BBC One Northern Ireland
  • New digital content for younger audiences and new digital investment in radio
  • New content to mark major historical anniversaries in Northern Ireland

It also highlights the launch of two new dramas filmed in Northern Ireland; ‘The Woman in White’ adapted from Wilkie Collins’ psychological thriller and ‘Paula’ starring Denise Gough which recently aired to a positive response.

Factual programming is also emphasised, with an eighth season of ‘True North’ and rural affairs series ‘Home Ground’ and ‘Stories in Sound’ on Radio Ulster. Other points pertain to strengthening the impartial and online news services in the region, and the coverage of GAA, rugby and motorcycle racing.

Under its distinctiveness focus, the BBC also pledges to launch a weekend news format on BBC Alba, the channel focused on Gaelic culture, identity and heritage, by Autumn 2018, in addition to a new comedy format and live-action preschool series.

TV Licence
Despite the recent call by the The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to abolish the TV licence, which it describes as ‘regressive’, the BBC group budget for 2017/18 projects an income of just over €43bn.

Arlene Foster, Northern Irish Unionist Party:
“The TV licence fee is a highly regressive tax which was designed for a different era and a world of communication that no longer exists. The success of Netflix and Amazon streaming services shows that subscription-based media can and does work.”

Read the full BBC Annual Plan 2017/18

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