BBC Launches Review of TV, Radio, Online News Output

Former Times of London editor James Harding is the recently appointed director of BBC News.

The project will focus on the "quality and distinctiveness" of the U.K. public broadcaster's journalism and its ability to adapt to changing viewer habits.

LONDON – The BBC has kicked off its first-ever broad-based review of the performance of its news shows and services.

The U.K. public broadcaster's governing body, the BBC Trust, will scrutinize all news output on TV, radio and the Internet with a focus on the "quality and distinctiveness" of its journalism and the BBC's ability to adapt to changing viewer habits.

The BBC Trust said the BBC remains the most trusted source of journalism in the U.K., and it wants to research its latest views and expectations.

Flagship TV shows such as Panorama and Newsnight will be covered, as will major radio shows, such as BBC Radio 4's Today, news updates on the BBC's Asian Network, mobile apps and social media output.

The BBC Trust first announced plans for a broad review of the broadcaster's news output in February, following missteps amid the Jimmy Savile sexual abuse scandal. But it is part of continuing service reviews and was in the first planning stages during the 2012 Olympics in London -- well before the BBC slid into crisis last fall.

Among other things, the Trust previously looked at the BBC News Channel, the BBC Parliament news service and the broadcaster's coverage of the Arab Spring. But it has never done a broad-based analysis of news output against its public service commitments.

The review launched Monday, a little more than a month after former Times of London editor James Harding started his role as BBC News director.

The Trust said it expects to conclude the project in the spring.

"No part of the BBC is more important to its audiences than its journalism," said BBC trustee Richard Ayre, who leads the review. "Now the Trust is going to ask in detail what those audiences expect of the BBC, what they appreciate most and where they think we could give them an even more distinctive service."

He added: "In a world where people can choose their news when and where they want it, and from a huge range of sources, we want to understand how best the BBC can retain their trust and confidence so that it remains clearly their number one choice."

The Trust said it will not review shortcomings in Newsnight's handling of the Savile scandal, which have previously been analyzed and discussed.

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