BBC Trust Issues "Must Do Better" Report Card for Public Broadcaster

BBC Trust's Chris Patten

Younger Brits aren't watching BBC News as much as their parents did and could turn away from the pubweb as they get older, an internal BBC review finds.

Younger audiences' use of broadcast news is continuing to decline and there is a risk that they may not turn to the BBC as they get older, as has traditionally been the case, according to an internal review by the public broadcaster.

The BBC Trust review of the corporation's news and current affairs output also noted April 29 that the BBC's current affairs coverage is failing to stand out, often lagging behind rivals such as Channel 4.

"We found a relatively low audience awareness of much of the BBC's current affairs output," said the Trust report.
"[Audiences] rate it less well at offering fresh perspectives, covering lesser-known stories and covering issues other channels would not. They want it to do more to cover stories and issues which stand out."

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It added that among audiences looking for quality investigative journalism, Channel 4 rated "higher than the BBC."

The trust said that BBC1's current affairs programs, including shows such as Panorama, should "lead the way" and that the channel's service license will be reworded to "strengthen the remit for this genre."

"The challenge facing the BBC's current affairs is therefore to make a greater impact," said the report. "This is a significant challenge to which we expect the BBC to make a significant response."

The trust said some audiences find the BBC's output "distant in tone and subject matter."

"In part, this audience need could be addressed by BBC news and current affairs looking, sounding and most importantly, being as diverse as the audience it serves," said the BBC Trust.

"All audiences expect the BBC to have a serious agenda built on its traditional values of accuracy and impartiality, but some want a broader agenda, too, better reflecting the diversity of life in the U.K. today. They want a greater variety of tone, and they want storytelling that is more engaging."

But it wasn't all bad news for the news gathering operations.

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The review, which looked at the performance of all of the BBC's U.K. network news and current affairs across TV, radio and online, found that the audiences think the BBC does significantly better than other news providers in providing up-to-date news, being easy to understand, giving in-depth coverage, having expert reporters and covering a wide range of stories.

Four out of five British adults watch, read or listen to BBC News each week, with BBC TV news alone watched by two-thirds of adults.

The review also found that use of BBC News Online has grown significantly in recent years, with the number of "unique browsers" doubling from 11 million in 2009 to 22.2 million in 2013, as audiences access BBC News on an increasing number of devices.

There has been a significant increase in the number of visits to BBC News Online via mobile and tablet devices, with tablet usage up 75 percent in a year, and while TV and radio usage remains high, there are signs of pressure on these traditional outlets.