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BBC Trust unveils strategy

December 15, 2010

From Colin Mann in London

A new strategy to deliver more distinctive, high quality programmes, improved value for money and greater transparency for all audiences has been published by the BBC Trust, the body that sets BBC strategy and top-level budgets .

Launching the final conclusions of the Strategy Review, BBC Trust Chairman Sir Michael Lyons stressed that the BBC remains a public service and as such it needs to distinguish itself from the rest of the market and hold the trust of licence fee payers.

The new strategy is designed to guide the BBC and the Trust as it carries out a review of efficiencies and the range and scope of the corporation’s services in the light of a new settlement which sees the licence fee frozen at its current level until 2016/17. The review will incorporate the reassessment of the BBC’s television portfolio that had been intended to take place around switchover in 2012/13.

The strategy concludes that the established mission to “inform, educate and entertain” remains valid today, but that to deliver it the BBC needs to accelerate the pace of change in its culture and behaviour, focusing on four priority areas:

1. Increasing the distinctiveness and quality of its programmes and services
2. Improving the value for money it provides to licence fee payers
3. Setting new standards of openness and transparency
4. Doing more to serve all audiences.

Sir Michael Lyons described the strategy as being to ensure licence fee payers received great programmes and services, and that they could tell they were getting value for money. “At its heart is the conclusion that as a public service the BBC needs to distinguish itself from the rest of the market, hold the trust of audiences and above all produce programmes and services that inspire, entertain and delight people and that are distinctively BBC.”

Sir Michael stressed that in order to provide high quality, distinctive content, the BBC needed to continue its drive to invest in programmes, while seeking to drive down the costs of overheads and delivery.

The Strategy Review was launched in September 2009. The Executive put proposals to the Trust in March 2010 and the Trust then published its initial conclusions on those proposals in July 2010. Publication of the final strategy and supporting analysis marks the end of the process.

The Trust’s initial conclusions focused strongly on content and value for money. The final conclusions summarise the Trust’s thinking on those topics and set out further direction on transparency and access to BBC services.

Specific issues covered in the review include a commitment to DAB as a way of improving coverage for digital services and Nations services, including reaching levels approaching FM equivalence as soon as feasible and evaluating options for improving coverage in the Nations of the UK; Preparing for any potential radio switchover over, including by working with the Government to assess the level of investment needed to boost the local tier of DAB; A requirement for the Director General to publish a clear statement about how the BBC will deliver the priorities and objectives set out in the new strategy for licence fee payers in each of the individual Nations of the UK and re-drawing and rationalising the policy for on-demand syndication of catch up content so that full length TV content is available on-demand in aggregate form, for example through the BBC iPlayer, not programme by programme. The iPlayer itself must remain available across a broad range of devices and platforms.

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