Hutton's picture of an indie sector set to crush the BBC once the WoCC gives it a foot in the door is a far-fetched one.
Hutton's picture of an indie sector set to crush the BBC once the WoCC gives it a foot in the door is a far-fetched one.

The BBC will not be unhappy with the findings of Will Hutton's report into the implications of its planned Window of Creative Competition. Hutton's organisation, the Work Foundation, paints a potentially bleak picture of the BBC's future once the WoCC is firmly established.

It is a vision that in many respects suits the BBC's management as it moves forward with the WoCC but ultimately hopes its in-house operation will retain as much of the 25% contestable output as possible.

In Hutton's most pessimistic predictions the BBC's in-house production operation withers on the vine as the greedy indies gobble up all the programming that has the greatest value in future rights exploitation. By 2016, warns Hutton, the BBC will be a bruised and battered organisation that through the WoCC has eroded its own strength and status. It will be bullied by an indie sector that is now significantly larger than the corporation's own production arm, and can dictate terms about the shows it will make - and effectively what the BBC gets to show. Indies, in Hutton's not-so-brave new world, will then move to "eliminate in-house production altogether". Hutton insists that to avoid this nightmare the WoCC should be rethought. But Hutton gets many things wrong in reaching these conclusions. He overstates the power of the indie sector - even after the new terms of trade, the biggest of today's super-indies is still a minnow to the BBC's£3bn monster. To suggest that by 2016 indies will be dictating what the BBC puts on air seems absurd.

In Hutton's eyes all indies are chasing the holy grail of an international format and running away from challenging, innovative programmes that have little commercial appeal. That of course is nonsense.

The rise and role of the super-indie may be a legitimate concern, but should not distort the reality that there are hundreds of indies out there desperate to get new and brave ideas on air, and whose primary purpose as programme-makers is creative rather than commercial. Hutton's report makes some interesting points about training and the ethos that underpins creative commissioning and production.

But his conclusions smack of scaremongering. The destiny of the BBC still resides largely in the hands of Mark Thompson and Michael Grade - not the indie sector. The WoCC won't change that.