In an opening speech at the Edinburgh TV festival on Monday, Hall is expected to stress that the responsibility of the BBC as “the UK’s most trusted news provider” is “to help bring the nation together”.
“The forces of disinformation and social media tend to feed off divides and drive polarization. They are often specifically designed to exploit the division for commercial or political purposes; to destabilize societies or undermine democracy ”, he will say.
“What we are doing, as PSB, is a force in the opposite direction.”
Hall will quote from an interview with a World Health Organization leader who spoke at a recent seminar for PSB leaders in Europe: “Why you are so important, he said,” is because even if we have a vaccine tomorrow – up to 30% of people, according to polls, wouldn’t use it. There is, he says, another pandemic – that of disinformation.
The role of the BBC is “much more than protecting integrity in news”, although this is essential, but also “to help protect our democratic integrity and to foster unity and cohesion”.
“More and more, in the world of fake news, truth is an invaluable commodity in our societies.”
Hall will address delegates on issues such as diversity, the role of news in public service broadcasting and how to stay relevant while competing with streaming services such as Netflix.
He is also expected to address the BBC’s past controversies, including the Jimmy Savile scandal, and executive earnings failures, which have left fundamental questions about his future unresolved. He will stress that this is a “transformed organization, inside and out”.
The “tragedy and calamity” of the Covid crisis has been a massive real-time consultation of what the British public wanted and expected from public service broadcasting, he will point out. And it brought the clarity of the BBC’s mission to even sharper focus.
The broadcaster’s response to Covid, as well as the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement, had provided lessons that PSBs were vital to democracy.
“They inform us. They educate us ”and, he added, their values are“ deeply rooted in the fabric of national life ”.
It will also highlight the broadcaster’s role in education during the school lockdown, the largest in its history, highlighting two hours of original programming per day with 2,000 hours of daily lessons guided by the program.
It could, he said, go further in the future, with the idea of an “open school” in the tradition of the Open University.
The Covid crisis was a major factor in 94% of the British public using the BBC in March, with 87% of 16-34 year olds doing so, and television viewing increased by almost 50% year on year in year certain weeks, not only for the news, but for dramas and escape programs.
By successfully adapting to the digital world, the BBC has made a “pivot to a new world”, he will say.
“So there is no doubt in my mind that the PSBs can do more than ever for the UK in the years to come. We must keep on beating the drum for what only we can deliver.
“Public service broadcasters – and the BBC in particular – have always been part of the glue that binds our nations and communities together. But the last few months have underlined it again. ”
Broadcaster and historian David Olusoga will close Monday’s event by delivering the annual MacTaggart Lecture, named in honor of producer, writer and director James MacTaggart.