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The BBC is set to pare back ‘worthwhile’ but low-rating documentaries as part of a ‘smart spending’ strategy to hit its savings target.

In a move that could hit small and medium-sized specialist factual indies, director general Tim Davie said he wanted more ‘landmark’ factual shows that have a big impact.

“It’s no longer OK to justify something as being ‘a good thing to do’,” he told a Reform thinktank event last week.

Acknowledging that reducing the volume of factual is a ‘sensitive area’, Davie said: “I’m not talking about a narrower provision - we are still chasing universal values - but I think in certain areas we can make less.”

Commissioners will be challenged to be “more accountable for the impact of their shows” via metrics beyond ratings.

“I want us within that Venn diagram where you are getting reach, impact and unmistakeably doing the best of PSB," said Davie. "We know what means – when you see a David Attenborough doc or Normal People, you just know what it feels like.”

Davie was speaking following the publication of the BBC Value for Audiences report, which said the corporation was on track to hit is target of saving £951m by next year, despite a real-term 30% cut to its income due to the licence fee freeze and the removal of subsidies for the over-75s.

The BBC plans to cut £400m from its content spend this year.

“The BBC has made big changes to ensure we provide outstanding value,” said Davie. “We are smarter spenders and savers and more efficient than ever before, but there is more to do.”

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