Audience tells BBC to innovate

Trust delivers first report

LONDON — The BBC needs to set its creative sights higher, according to a survey of its own audiences.

In a more candid than usual annual report, published July 3, the corporation admits that viewers are saying “loud and clear they want fresh and new ideas.”

This is according to the BBC Trust, the Beeb’s new ruling body, which replaced the board of governors in January and is designed to be more representative of the audience than the old system.

Trust chairman Michael Lyons said: “Fresh and new program ideas must be a high priority and more effort is needed.”

Lyons, who succeeded Michael Grade in April, added: “The trust’s assessment of the BBC this year is necessarily provisional and incomplete, but some messages are coming through strongly: the public trusts the BBC and values much of what it produces, but audiences want the BBC to be more innovative.”

The BBC Trust asked 4,500 people to assess the BBC’s performance across a range of categories.

Education and news were ranked as the top two BBC priorities while entertainment was number three.

Almost half the sample said the corp. was failing to do enough to innovate and back new and exciting programs.

“This message, alongside a desire for high quality — which need not necessarily mean high cost — is consistent across all groups who have participated in our consultations and it is one of the key factors we will consider when deciding the BBC’s strategic priorities in the autumn,” said Lyons.

Director general Mark Thompson singled out fare like “Doctor Who,” “Strictly Come Dancing,” “Life on Mars” and “Planet Earth” for praise.

However, he conceded that not everything had gone smoothly during the past 12 months.

“There were bumps along the way,” he said. “Editorial mistakes around phone lines, while unintentional, went to the heart of our contract of trust with audiences and we are taking steps to minimize the chance of it happening again.”

Thompson did not rule out taking TV flagship soap “EastEnders” from the present four nights a week to five, claiming that such a move was not incompatible with the audience’s desire for more innovation.

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