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BBC Trust: Audiences’ voice must be heard in Charter debate

The voice of the audiences who pay for the BBC must be heard in the BBC’s Charter Review debate following the agreement reached with the Government on the BBC licence fee, BBC Trust Chairman Rona Fairhead said, launching the BBC Annual Report and Accounts for 2014/15.

The report shows that in 2014/15 the BBC continued to reach almost every household around the UK, reaching 97 per cent of adults with highlights including Wolf Hall on BBC Two, Poldark on BBC One, Happy Valley, The Fall, and award-winning BBC Three drama Murdered By My Boyfriend. 

On radio, BBC 6 Music became the first digital-only radio station to reach two million listeners each week, and Radio 4 Extra is also now reaching more than two million listeners per week.  BBC Radio also held major events including Radio 1 Big Weekend from Glasgow, the BBC Music Awards and the 6 Music Festival.

The BBC’s digital services had a record-breaking year; the Trust approved the move of iPlayer from seven to 30-day catchup, and in January 2015 iPlayer had its best month on record, with 343 million downloads.  The new BBC Weather app reached five million downloads within five months of launch – an average of fifteen downloads per minute.

Throughout the year, the BBC also marked the centenary of World War One with content across TV, radio and online.

Savings and efficiencies continued across the BBC; the Delivering Quality First efficiency programme is on track to save £700 million by 2016/17 with £484 million saved this year, contributing to a total of £1.5 billion per annum of cumulative annual savings that will have been delivered by the end of the Charter period in 2017.

The Director-General Tony Hall also recently announced plans to save an additional £50 million by merging divisions, cutting down management layers, reducing the number of managers and improving internal processes.

Rona Fairhead said: “Over the course of the past year, BBC has had notable successes on screen and on air, remains as popular as ever with audiences, and made good progress in delivering savings with more in the pipeline. As we head into the Charter Review with much more clarity on the funding than expected, the focus must now be on deciding the shape and role of the BBC for the next generation. The Trust will be working tirelessly to ensure that the voice of those who pay the licence fee, the UK public, will have the pivotal voice in that debate.”

BBC Director-General Tony Hall said: “We had fantastic success last year with some great programmes like Wolf Hall and Poldark and we’ve got more great shows lined up for the year ahead. As we enter a period of Charter Review it’s inevitable that there will be much discussion about the programmes we provide. I believe that the BBC should continue to make programmes for all our audiences. Everyone pays for the BBC and it is right that we continue to make programmes for everyone. A BBC that doesn’t inform, educate and entertain is not the BBC the public know and love.”

This year’s Annual Report shows that in 2014/15:

  • 97 per cent of UK adults used BBC services on TV, radio or online each week, up from 96 per cent the previous year.

  • The BBC responded well to a challenge last year from the Trust to improve the quality, variety and originality of new drama on BBC One, particularly in peaktime, with new and popular dramas including Happy Valley, The Missing and Poldark, as well as returning series Last Tango in Halifax, The Village and Call the Midwife.

  • A record 283 million people accessed the BBC’s Global News services every week.

  • Wolf Hall became BBC Two’s highest rated drama series for at least twelve years, and the 30th anniversary of EastEnders was watched by 21 million people.

  • BBC Sport Online drew 77.5 million unique browsers across the globe, for its coverage of the World Cup, Wimbledon, the British Grand Prix and The Open.

  • 90 per cent of adults around the country listened to some BBC Radio during the year, although the time they spend listening is decreasing.

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