BBC defies demands to shift 'Panorama' to weekday slot

The BBC has defied calls to move
Panorama from its late- night slot on Sunday, despite a report warning that the broadcaster's current affairs programmes are failing to appeal to a mainstream audience.

The BBC has defied calls to move Panorama from its late- night slot on Sunday, despite a report warning that the broadcaster's current affairs programmes are failing to appeal to a mainstream audience.

Instead, BBC1 promised to raise its current affairs output by nearly 30 per cent in an attempt to woo back mainstream viewers and to increase the number of investigations shown at 9pm on weekdays.

A report into the BBC's current affairs output commissioned by the board of governors called for greater "clarity" about the role of Panorama, which sparked an outcry in 2000 when it was moved from 10.05pm on Monday nights to 10.15pm on Sundays. Average viewing figures for the programmes fell from 3.5 million to 2.6 million.

The report added that while the majority of viewers believe they should watch current affairs programmes, they don't really want to. BBC1's current affairs show Real Story, with Fiona Bruce, also came under fire for failing to attract the same level of public awareness as its ITV1 counterpart Tonight with Trevor McDonald.

"Many weeks, ITV1... now shows double the amount of current affairs in peak time than BBC1... we suggest that this is an unsustainable position," the governors said.

BBC management responded by announcing an extra £3m investment to increase primetime current affairs output by 28 per cent to 48.5 hours per week. The funding will come from the budget cuts being implemented across the BBC.

Audience research commissioned by the governors showed that Panorama's Sunday night time slot is a turn-off for viewers who want to relax at the end of the weekend.

But the governors concluded that giving Panorama a regular weekday slot in prime time would prove even more detrimental, because other channels would schedule competitively against it, leading to plummeting viewing figures, which could lead to it being axed.

The BBC's director of television, Jana Bennett, said: " Panorama is one of the most authoritative and respected parts of the BBC1 schedule and will remain so. Our decision, after long consideration, to leave it in its regular Sunday night slot is designed to secure its award-winning, hard-hitting journalism and to support the programme-makers in pursuing the agenda they believe in."

She announced an increase in the number of annual Sunday night Panoramas from 28 to 30 and a doubling of Panorama midweek specials to eight.

In a side-swipe at ITV's Tonight, Ms Bennett added that BBC1's extra investment in current affairs would not be spent on "Trevor-lite" subjects.

In March, the channel will show documentaries on prisons, detention centres for asylum-seekers and on insurance companies, she said. Under the proposals, Real Story will move from a magazine format to focus on single issues and increase from 28 to 32 episodes a year.

But the BBC has a long way to go to appeal to more mainstream viewers, according to the governors, who concluded that current affairs programmes are "not perceived to be very appealing or enjoyable". People already feel over-informed and want to watch television for enjoyment, not to be presented with "more bad news", the report said.

Young adults, digital television viewers and the less well-off are particularly disillusioned, with only 48 per cent of 16- to 44-year-olds tuning in to current affairs programmes, compared to 71 per cent of over-45s.

The report said there was some evidence that current affairs was "ghettoised" in the late 1990s by the former director general John Birt, who moved popular shows such as Watchdog to other departments.

An ITV spokesman insisted that Tonight had a broad agenda, ranging from an exposé of toxins in breast milk to a plot to recruit British citizens into "terror camps" in Pakistan. "These issues by anyone's standards couldn't be considered 'lite'," the spokesman said.

DOCUMENTARY'S DRAMAS

HIGHS

Diana, Princess of Wales

In 1995, 22.8 million people watched Martin Bashir interviewing Diana, Princess of Wales, talking candidly about her life and marriage.

Seroxat

Three Panorama investigations into evidence that the anti-depressant drug Seroxat can cause young people to become suicidal prompted regulators to move to ban the prescription of the drug to under-18s.

Hutton

A Panorama special on the events leading to the Hutton inquiry by the programme's veteran reporter John Ware was described by Melvyn Bragg as "astonishingly bold" although it was only watched by 2.9 million viewers.

LOWS

Difficult birth

When Panorama was launched in November 1953 as the "magazine of informed comment on the contemporary scene" it was criticised internally for lacking visual impact and being too verbal.

Iran

In 1973, Panorama caused the BBC's Iran correspondent to be thrown out of the country after the Shah discovered the programme was planning to report that he was spending oil money on weapons.

Specials

Panorama midweek specials in 2004 failed to bring in a more mainstream audience. An investigation into abuses at Abu Ghraib prison attracted just 1.6 million viewers.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel you sales role is li...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Legal Recruitment Consultant

Highly Competitive Salary + Commission: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL BASED - DEALING ...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition