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BBC: “We’ll learn from incredible highs and desperate lows”

July 16, 2013

The BBC is determined to learn the lessons from a year of “incredible highs” and some “desperate lows”, BBC Trust Chairman Lord Patten pledged today.

Launching the BBC’s Annual Report and Accounts for 2012/13 with Director-General Tony Hall, Lord Patten highlighted the success of the BBC’s Olympics coverage which surpassed all expectations, with 2,500 hours of television coverage reaching 90 per cent of the UK population – the highest audience for any event since measurements began.

However, he said that the failings and low points for the BBC this year were significant – particularly the Jimmy Savile revelations, the related Newsnight crises, and the departure of George Entwistle as Director-General. The BBC seriously let down both itself and licence fee payers.

The Annual Report reveals that the BBC’s performance amongst audiences remains very strong – it continues to reach 96 per cent of the UK population every week and audiences consume an average of 19 hours of BBC content each week.

It also shows that the BBC delivered £580 million efficiency savings under the continuous improvement programme, contributing to the £2 billion cumulative savings delivered over 2008/09 to 2012/13. This means the BBC exceeded the three per cent year-on-year efficiency savings target set by the Trust. So far this has been achieved without a detrimental impact on audience numbers or appreciation scores.

The Trust has also published a letter from the Director-General to the Chairman setting out his approach to reforming the BBC’s management culture – one of the actions required of the Executive by the BBC Trust following the findings of Nick Pollard’s review into the Newsnight investigation into Savile.

In the letter, the DG sets out that he is approaching this challenge in three ways – refreshing his top team, re-emphasising the BBC’s values and embedding greater personal accountability. He concludes that there are positive signs of progress in addressing the challenges highlighted by the Pollard report, but that change will require leadership, hard work and focus over the coming months and years.

Lord Patten said: “This has truly been a year like no other, with some incredible highs and some desperate lows. In both, there are lessons that we must learn. The Olympics was a high watermark, both in terms of content and in signposting the way to a digital future. It was evidence that at its best, the BBC remains the world’s greatest broadcaster, providing coverage of a scale, quality and ambition to the whole nation in a way that I believe no other broadcaster could.”

“But it was also one of the most turbulent years in the BBC’s history. While the priority is clearly the impact on his victims, the Jimmy Savile affair and all that came after it revealed some serious weaknesses in the BBC’s culture and behaviours. I welcome the Director-General’s update on how he is addressing these issues, which we also publish today.”

“Similarly it has been a mixed year for the BBC on value for money. We continue to drive down talent and senior management pay and to meet challenging efficiency targets, but the failed DMI technology project and unjustifiable severance payments to some senior staff highlight that we have got much further to go in showing licence fee payers that we always treat their investment in us with the respect it deserves.”

BBC Director-General Tony Hall said: “I am extremely proud of the BBC that I have seen and experienced over the last four months. This is a creative organisation that produces brilliant programmes. And whilst this Annual Report covers a period of time that pre-dates my arrival, for me it highlights the great successes that we are capable of achieving whilst also reminding me that there is much we can and must to learn from some terrible events of the past.”

Meanwhile, Lord Patten has confirmed he plans to step down from the role in 2015 despite admitting the timing was “not ideal”. Patten said he intended to serve only one four-year term after his appointment in 2011.

The annual report shows that during 2012/13:

  • The BBC continued to reach almost every household in the UK, with 96 per cent of people accessing BBC content via TV, radio and online every week. BBC Online reached 48.1 per cent of the population.
  • Over 90 per cent of the TV population saw some of the BBC’s Olympic programming; 52 million viewers watched the BBC’s record-breaking 24 streams of Olympics coverage, with 32 million accessing online coverage – of which 8.6 million watched coverage on mobile browsers, in the first truly ‘Digital Olympics’. 60 per cent of the audience agreed that BBC digital media made their Olympics experience better.
  • Although public trust in the BBC was hit by the Jimmy Savile revelations and the Newsnight crises, it is now recovering to previous levels.
  •  Digital radio continued to grow, with a third of all hours spent listening to live radio being via a digital platform, 6 Music achieving a record weekly reach of 1.9 million between October and December 2012, and 1Extra and 4 Extra reaching record numbers of listeners.
  • BBC News continued to be the most popular news broadcaster, with 82 per cent of UK adults watching, listening or reading the BBC’s coverage of stories from the Eurozone crisis, the escalating violence in Syria, and at home the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the Olympics, and the year of unseasonable weather, floods and freezing temperatures.
  • The Trust approved revised plans under the BBC’s Delivering Quality First efficiency programme which will protect Local Radio from taking a disproportionate share of spending cuts following the agreement of a new licence fee settlement in 2010.
  • The Trust continued its drive to ensure the very highest editorial standards, both by hearing complaints about editorial services under a revised, more responsive complaints framework and by carrying out a review into the breadth of opinion on the BBC’s news, factual and current affairs services.
  • The Trust completed reviews of the Asian Network and Local Radio and launched reviews of BBC Online and Red Button and BBC children’s programming.
  • On value for money the Trust commissioned National Audit Office reviews of the move to Salford and severance payments and wider benefits for senior BBC manages. Both have now been published.


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