There is a public consultation exercise on the proposed reforms to the BBC. It is open until May 25th, and can be found online here.
At the time of writing the page was running slow and unreliably. But in any case it is worth taking a bit of time to consider responses to the questions before diving in.
To save you ploughing through the survey for a dummy run, here is the questionnaire in full. A free-text box follows all questions.
The BBC’s strategic principles
The Director-General has proposed five high level principles which would set the future direction of the BBC. These are:
- putting quality first, including five areas of editorial focus for all BBC services
- doing fewer things better – including stopping activities in some areas
- guaranteeing access for all licence fee payers to BBC services
- making the licence fee work harder – being efficient and offering better value for money
- setting new boundaries
The Trust agrees that the BBC should have a set of published principles and, when these are agreed, we will ensure that the BBC is held to account for acheiving them.
Some of the proposed principles are in response to challenges the Trust has set the BBC – such as focussing on high quality programmes and considering whether the current range of services is too large. We endorse these five principles, although we have not agreed to specific proposals in each area.
Do you think these are the right principles?
Should the BBC have any other strategic principles?
Proposed principle: Putting Quality First
We know that you have very high expectations of BBC programmes and services. We also know that most BBC programmes and services meet audience expectations, but that some do not. The Trust will always push the BBC to do better in this respect and we’re keen to know what you think.
Which BBC output do you think could be higher quality?
Offering you something special
The Trust believes that the BBC needs to do more than offer high quality programmes and services.
We know that your expectations of the BBC are that it offers something special to you – something distinctive and better than other broadcasters. For example, the BBC should offer you thoroughly independent and impartial news, it should introduce you to new talent in drama and comedy, and its radio stations should play pop music that other radio stations don’t.
The Trust knows that you think the BBC could do more to be original and different in some areas.
Which areas should the BBC make more distinctive from other broadcasters and media?
The Five Editorial Priorities
The Director-General has proposed that all BBC services should be focussed on some or all of five editorial priorities.
The Director-General’s proposed editorial priorities are:
- The best journalism in the world
- Inspiring knowledge, music and culture
- Ambitious UK drama and comedy
- Outstanding children’s content
- Events that bring communities and the nation together
The Trust thinks that the proposed editorial priorities fit well with those things you have told us are important to you in our previous research, but we want to consider how these priorities should be delivered to you in the future.
Do these priorities fit with your expectations of BBC TV, radio and online services?
Proposed principle: Doing fewer things and doing them better
The Trust believes that BBC must offer the highest quality programming. We have previously told the Director-General that we think that the pursuit of higher quality may mean doing less overall.
The Director-General has proposed a number of areas where the BBC could reduce or stop activities altogether. The suggestions are to:
- Close Radio 6 Music and focusing the BBC’s pop music output on Radio 1 and Radio 2
- Close Asian Network as a national service and aiming to serve Asian audiences better in other ways on other BBC services
- Change BBC local radio stations, by investing more in breakfast, morning and drivetime shows, but share content across local stations at other times of the day
- Close the BBC’s teen zone, BBC Switch
- Close the teenage learning offer Blast!
- Make the BBC’s website smaller, with fewer sections. (We do not yet have the details of what will be cut)
We can assure you that decisions have not yet been taken on any of these areas and that we will consider each area very carefully before doing so.
We welcome your views on these areas.
Proposed principle: Guaranteeing access to BBC services
The growth of digital technologies and platforms has led to greater choice and convenience for many people in terms of how they receive and consume TV and radio programmes.
Many of the BBC’s TV, radio and online services are now delivered to you in several ways. For example, many BBC radio services are available on AM, FM and DAB radio, digital television and online devices. However, the Trust recognises that some BBC services are still unavailable on the main platforms, such as FM or DAB, in parts of the UK.
The Trust believes that there is a fine balance to be struck here – between giving you the chance to receive BBC services in all the ways and devices you may have and making sure that the BBC doesn’t spend too much on delivering BBC content to you, rather than on the content itself.
If you have particular views on how you expect BBC services to be available to you, please let us know.
The BBC archive
The BBC is always considering ways in which it can make its programmes available to you at no cost. For example, recent TV and radio programmes are already available to you soon after broadcast on the BBC iPlayer.
The Trust is not considering specific proposals from the Director-General in this area at this point, but welcome any views you may have on having access to recently broadcast and to older BBC programming.
Please tell us if you have views on this area.
Proposed principle: Making the licence fee work harder
One of the Trust’s priorities is to ensure that the BBC offers excellent value for money, by being efficient and by making effective use of its income. We think that it is right that you expect this of the BBC.
The Trust welcomes the Director-General’s proposals to ensure that the BBC offers value for money and, specifically, we support the aim to maximise the proportion of the licence fee that is spent on programming. However, we know that there will be more do to, in order to achieve this.
If you are concerned about the BBC’s value for money, please tell us why.
Proposed principle: Setting new boundaries for the BBC
The Trust has asked the Director-General to consider where the BBC could be clearer about the limits to its activities as we know there is considerable demand for this from other broadcasters and media companies and the BBC has a responsibility to consider its competitive impact on others.
The Director-General has set out a list of proposed limits to BBC activity. These are:
- Reducing the BBC offer in pop music radio by closing 6 Music
- Closing niche services for teenagers: BBC Switch and Blast!
- Reducing BBC expenditure on programmes bought from abroad – for example, American films and dramas
- Limiting BBC expenditure on sports rights
- Not offering any more localised services than the BBC already does – for example, new services for individual towns or cities
- Making the BBC website more focussed on particular areas.
The Trust has carried out work in some of these areas already and we support some aspects to these limits: making the BBC’s website focussed and distinctive and setting limits to the BBC’s local media offer.
In many other areas, we recognise there are trade-offs. For example, buying a US drama can mean that viewers are offered a high quality programme at lower cost than would be possible with a new British programme.
The Trust has not taken decisions in any of these areas and we will consider each one very carefully before doing so.
Do you think that the BBC should limit its activities in these areas?
Should any other areas be on this list?