The TV guide to the new tribes of Britain

Click to follow
The Independent Online
JEWISH PEOPLE love the BBC but Muslims and Asians do not. Better- off pensioners are avid viewers and listeners, but less well-off middle age mums and the Chinese community don't watch very much at all.

These are the findings of extensive internal research into "the 100 tribes of Britain", which has been conducted by the corporation's deputy director of television, David Docherty, and which is already affecting its commissioning and scheduling decisions.

A 50-page internal document reveals that the expatriate Welsh have a remarkably strong appetite for BBC programmes, while young dads and Hindus do not. It also shows that the BBC is serving fans of classical culture well, but is less successful on the popular culture front.

Next year the corporation will focus on eight or nine particular tribes, and concentrate on serving them better. Mr Docherty will not reveal which they are on the grounds that "Channel 4 and ITV would love to know".

The hundred tribes, which range from "young solos" and "mature partners" to Sikhs and male students, are a part of aexercise aimed at ensuring the BBC's survival in the modern age. "As society becomes ever more complex, it becomes tougher for the BBC to compete as a universal service. But that's the ambition," says Mr Docherty.

He recognises that a fragmenting society makes it difficult for the BBC to keep up with who the viewers are, and to try to keep most of them happy most of the time.

So what is to be done when an under-served group, such as the Chinese or young fathers, is identified by the analysis? "The problem might be simply one of promoting the brand, or we might need to alter the programmes, commission new programmes or change scheduling," says Mr Docherty.

The tribes divide into three categories. Life-stages, which describe people in terms of age and family; social and religious groups; and thirdly by their passions.

The passions research - which involved 2,000 people - is of particular interest, with the wave of popular programmes, from Changing Rooms to Looking Good that are meant to serve "communities of interest".

A lot more of this sort of programming is likely once the "passions" analysis feeds through the system. "It's not dumbing down, it's stretching out," says Mr Docherty.

The passions research also ranks how intensely people feel about their interests. Home and garden and playing sport score high, while news and current affairs, classical culture and aesthetics score low.

Is this an awful lot of research to produce programmes that might once have been launched on a controller's gut instinct about the market? Mr Docherty says not.

"It's certainly not an elephant straining to deliver a gnat," he says. The message is that programme makers have a new language in which to think about their audiences. "`Young fathers' is a far better, more specific term than the old class language of ABC1s. In practice ABC1 could mean anything from a millionaire to someone working in an office," Mr Docherty says.

How The Researchers See Some Of Us

Young women living with friends: Dorothy and Debs from Men Behaving Badly are members, and spend much of the programme watching television on the sofa with the lads. In real life, the BBC is not scoring well with this group.

Hindi shopping enthusiasts: Probably being better served by ITV's She's Gotta Have It than the BBC's Looking Good, on the grounds that ITV has a better ethnic mix of shoppers. The BBC takes only 23 per cent of Hindu audiences.

Young dads: Young mums are easily identified and catered for with daytime television and Vanessa Feltz. But young dads? A problem area for the BBC, which will doubtless commission acres of research to find out "what young dads want".

Less well-off retired: Do not watch as much BBC television or listen to its radio as much as better off pensioners. The research does not reveal whether this is a class thing, but good sense indicates that it might be.

Chinese pet lovers: The Chinese come bottom of all tribes in BBC watching but the BBC document gives no hints about their audiences for Animal Hospital and Vets in Practice. Ken Hom's hamster hospital might be a programme idea.

Comments