BBC2 told to forget chasing ratings and dare to be different

BBC1 and BBC2 are too similar, while BBC4 needs to do more to raise its profile, the BBC Trust said yesterday after a review of the output of the channels.

The corporation's governing body told channel controllers that it expected to see an improvement in performance by the end of next year.

The review found that BBC1, which has been performing well in audience ratings, needed to be more ambitious and risk-taking. "It should actively seek to increase the level of range, variety and surprise in pre-watershed peak time, and show greater creative ambition at 9pm," said the Trust. "We would expect to see signs of improvement in audience perceptions by the end of 2011."

BBC2 needed to be more distinctive from the flagship channel, argued the governing body, which was critical of the quality of the daytime output of the two channels. "[BBC2's] aim should be to re-establish its position as a channel which audiences recognise as being manifestly different to BBC1."

The average person in the UK watches 5 hours 29 minutes a week of BBC1 programming, though the number of different shows on the channel between 7pm and 9pm has fallen from 115 to 61 between 2005 and 2009 as it has concentrated on popular formats such as Strictly Come Dancing.

The Trust said that Janice Hadlow, controller of BBC2, should not be afraid of losing audience as she tried to make her channel more distinctive. "BBC2 should ensure it provides something which audiences recognise as being manifestly different from BBC1, even at the risk that BBC2's reach may fall."

The review examined the strength of the news and current affairs output on the three channels, highlighting the declining ratings for BBC2's Newsnight, which has seen its audience fall by 20 per cent since 2004, while noting the growing reach for BBC1 programmes Question Time and This Week.

The BBC's leading current affairs strand Panorama had a mixed report. The review noted that the switch to a 30-minute slot on Monday nights had resulted in an increased audience reach, though some of that ground has since been lost.

The Trust said: "BBC management is exploring the possibility of slightly reducing the number of episodes of Panorama while retaining current levels of investment in the programme in order to give production teams greater space to develop investigations."

It also called on BBC1 to produce more one-off documentaries, citing the high audience approval ratings for Wounded, a programme about the rehabilitation journey of two soldiers.

The Trust called on BBC4, a channel that is loved by the chattering classes for its strong documentaries and arts coverage, to "achieve greater impact", including raising the profile of its world news coverage.

The review was supported by audience research which was broadly supportive of the BBC output. Some 44 per cent of viewers approved highly of BBC1, compared to 13 per cent who gave it a low rating. Some 65 per cent of respondents said the channel represented good value for money. BBC2 fared better, with 44 per cent giving it high approval scores, compared to 7 per cent who disapproved of its output, with 74 per cent saying they "learned new things" while watching the channel.

But BBC4 scored only 27 per cent high approvals, with 20 per cent of respondents giving it a low rating. "BBC4's approach is to focus in depth on relatively specialist areas of interest that may not have mainstream appeal," said the report. "Viewers are more likely to be male, aged older than 35 and of a higher social grade."

Singled out for praise – or criticism

Bang Goes the Theory

The BBC1 science strand that was picked out by the BBC Trust as too rare an example of "new and ambitious" programming in peak time.



Newsnight

The Trust complained that BBC2's current affairs programming has lacked impact in "key areas such as foreign affairs and business, economics and finance". It noted that audiences had fallen by 20 per cent since 2004.

Question Time

The long-running format was cited as an example of a show that was increasing its reach, but the Trust said that viewing of British current affairs was in decline.



Panorama

The Trust said Panorama should remain the flagship format, but said it had lost reach and should do more long investigations. It applauded plans to reduce the number of shows but maintain funding to provide greater resources.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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

Marketing Account Manager / Client Liaison Manager

£25 - 32k DOE: Guru Careers: A digital-savvy Marketing Account Manager / Clien...

Business Development Manager / Sales Executive

£23-30k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking bright Business Developmen...

Senior Developer/Development Lead - C# ASP.NET. SQL

Circa £55,000: Ashdown Group: Lead Developer requirement - C#, ASP.NET, SQL - ...

DFA Ad Operations Manager

38,000: Sphere Digital Recruitment: My client is an agency that handles the me...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain