BBC Trust definition of purpose remit
BBC viewers, listeners and users can expect the BBC to help everyone in the UK to get the best out of emerging media technologies now and in the future.
The BBC Trust, after public consultation, has divided this remit into six specific priorities:
- Make engaging digital content and services available on a wide range of digital platforms and devices.
- Work with the industry to deliver a UK-wide network of digital television.
- Increase coverage of DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting).
- Support Digital UK's communications activity to build awareness of, and readiness for, digital switchover.
- Work in partnership with other organisations to help all audiences understand and adopt emerging communications technologies and services.
- Support the Government's targeted help scheme to help the most vulnerable during digital switchover.
Throughout its history, the BBC has made a very strong contribution to bringing the benefits of new communications technologies to a mass audience.
Most recently, the BBC has worked with the industry to deliver the benefits of:
- Free digital television: Freeview is now the UK's largest digital television platform (available in 14 million households) thanks to the BBC's central role in the creation of the platform and the launch of BBC Three, BBC Four, CBBC, CBeebies, BBC News 24 and the BBCi's red button services for the platform.
- DAB digital radio: The BBC has launched five new digital radio services and invested in transmission networks covering 85% (January 2008) of the population.
- The internet: The BBC continues to play an important role in demonstrating the power of the medium as a platform for original content, having created the UK's third most used website and most used mobile internet (WAP) service.
One challenge facing the BBC is that much of its contribution to this purpose is not recognised by licence fee payers. This is due in part to the fact that much BBC activity in this area is either at a business-to-business level (for example, working with the radio industry on DAB promotion), not carried out under the BBC brand (for example, Freeview) or targeted at priority niche audiences (such as WebWise).
This public perception is reflected in results from the BBC Trust's Purpose Remit Survey, which revealed that, of all of the public purposes, emerging communications and technologies was considered the least important by audiences. (However, research recently conducted by the Trust for Public Value Tests has shown that licence fee payers do expect that the BBC will provide new services to deliver benefits of emerging communications technologies to the public.)
Despite the lack of priority which audiences appear to place on this purpose, the Trust's consultation identified a gap between audience expectations and their perception of the BBC's performance, concerning "The BBC's support for Digital UK's communications activity to build awareness for digital switchover" (priority 4). The Trust believes that the gap also pertains to "The BBC's role in ensuring national readiness for switchover" (priorities 2 and 5), although this did not explicitly come through from the consultation.
BBC management response to purpose gaps
Delivering Creative Future, management's six-year strategic framework for the delivery of the BBC's purposes, envisages the BBC's content and services aggregated, strengthened and delivered via multiple digital platforms.
To achieve this, BBC management will take action in three areas:
1 Creating new technologies and services
The BBC will invest in research and innovation and work with the industry to develop emerging technology standards and new content formats along with new BBC services which exploit them.
Working with industry partners, it will build on recent successes of Freeview and Freesat to explore opportunities to develop new broadcast platforms as technologies and networks evolve, where there is clear a public value rationale for doing so. In addition, it will roll out broadcast infrastructure for the new digital networks.
2 Raising audience awareness and understanding of new technologies and services
The BBC will use its nationwide and local broadcast services to promote awareness of the benefits of emerging technologies. In general, it will cross-promote new content and services to audiences who have not yet adopted the technology.
More specifically, the BBC will provide information about the digital switchover process through its services, targeting local areas and communities as appropriate, supporting Digital UK marketing and monitoring DUK's activities to ensure that target audiences are reached in line with the BBC's specific Equality Duty commitments which relate to this public function.
The BBC will promote understanding of new technologies by continuing to invest in media literacy in order to promote understanding of the benefits of new technologies, particularly among the most vulnerable audiences.
3 Encouraging adoption of new technologies and services
The BBC's content and services are perhaps the most powerful means to drive adoption of new technologies. The BBC will drive take-up of on-demand functionality by providing such access to its television and radio programming and opening up some of the BBC's content archive for creative purposes. It will also commission new content that exploits the particular characteristics of different technologies and platforms, such as the participative nature of the internet.
In the particular case of digital television, the BBC will comply with the policy of the Digital Switchover Help Scheme to bring the benefits of digital television to every UK citizen, including the more vulnerable members of society, and will continue to consult with target groups throughout the process to ensure that delivery is tailored to specific needs.
The BBC will also drive adoption of new technologies by helping to establish industry technical standards which help audiences to find, access and use them more easily and consistently, building audience confidence and spreading the benefits widely.
Delivering the purpose priorities
1 Make engaging digital content and services available on a wide range of digital platforms and devices
BBC Trust: "The BBC will offer interesting and enjoyable programmes and services that can be received through many different devices such as digital television, digital radio, mobile phones and the internet."
The BBC will aim to:
- Commission innovative multi-platform content.
- Deliver the technology which allows the content to be played out on multiple platforms.
- Secure partnerships to increase distribution on emerging platforms.
The BBC will invest more in content designed for use on different platforms, particularly in audiovisual content beyond news. This content will be able to be played out through new platforms and services such as BBC iPlayer, or used in more interactive ways via bbc.co.uk or BBCi (especially important to those who have a television but not a computer in their homes).
The BBC will increase perceptions of the quality of its output by showcasing a mix of television programmes in high definition (HD) on BBC HD.
The BBC will invest significantly in the technologies that will transform the BBC into an end-to-end digital producer of content which can be then be distributed in more flexible ways across different platforms and devices.
As the BBC has historically done with emerging technologies such as satellite and cable, it will continue to strike partnerships with emerging platform players and consult with representative target groups to ensure the delivery of its services to all UK audiences.
The BBC is committed to improving its understanding of how disabled audiences use different media and to exploring their perceptions of BBC service delivery mechanisms. It will be exploring these areas further through a qualitative and quantitative research programme during spring 2008.
2 Work with the industry to deliver a UK-wide network of digital television
BBC Trust: "The BBC should work closely with other key parts of the UK digital industry to offer digital television through DTT, DSat and cable."
The BBC is committed to:
- Providing a subscription-free choice of ways to access digital television.
- Delivering robust and efficient and accessible digital broadcasting to all licence fee payers.
Freeview represents a simple, low-cost and subscription-free option to enter the digital world. The BBC will endeavour to ensure that the Freeview platform remains competitive with other platforms and embraces new technologies.
Going forward, Freesat will contribute to enabling every family in the UK to enjoy a wide range of quality channels, ensuring free access to all the BBC's services across the country in the run-up to switchover and beyond. It will strengthen the BBC's digital presence and will include high-definition programmes without having to pay a monthly subscription. Through Freesat, the BBC is actively working with other broadcasters, satellite operators, manufacturers, retailers and installers to ensure a smooth launch in 2008 and create a strong foundation for its ongoing presence.
By operating its own successful digital services, the BBC will encourage others in the industry to invest more in digital, thus taking a leading role in achieving switchover. It will work with all other key stakeholders, including representative target groups and commercial companies, non-government organisations (NGOs) and government bodies to deliver a broadcasting system that meets the diverse needs of UK licence fee payers. The BBC will continue to work to implement the broadcast infrastructure for the new digital networks and to secure continuity of service for analogue and low-power digital terrestrial television (DTT) networks.
3 Increase coverage of DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting)
BBC Trust: "The BBC should increase the number of transmitters to extend DAB coverage to at least 90% of the UK outdoor population."
The BBC will extend DAB coverage in particular by:
- Investing in the necessary DAB transmitters to extend coverage to that level.
- Working with manufacturers and mobile operators to improve indoor and mobile reception of digital radio receivers.
The BBC will invest in the transmission network required to ensure that coverage of the BBC's national DAB multiplex is extended to 90% outdoor population coverage for network radio. The contract for this is in place and it is expected that the first transmitters to be built as part of this expansion will come on stream in 2008.
The BBC will work closely with other key stakeholders to improve indoor and mobile reception of DAB services to increase the appeal of the technology to audiences. It will also work with industry partners to grow the audience to services on DAB. It will continue to invest in its own services, making attractive content that appeals to listeners and extends the choice of services available to them. It will trail content from its digital channels on its analogue services and, where appropriate, showcase the best of originated speech and music content to the larger audiences available on the analogue stations.
It should be noted that the BBC's nations and local services have reserved capacity on local commercial multiplexes, so coverage in those areas is dependent on the take-up of multiplexes by the commercial sector and approval by the BBC for entering into commercial carriage contracts with the local multiplex operators. This process will not be affected by the BBC's decisions on transmitter spend for the national DAB network.
The BBC will also participate fully in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's Digital Radio Working Group during 2008, which is looking at how to promote digital radio, ensure its place as the primary means of listening and increase the numbers of people using it.
4 Support Digital UK's communications activity to build awareness of, and readiness for, digital switchover
BBC Trust: "The BBC should work with Digital UK to ensure that all UK television viewers know about switchover and have the opportunity to prepare for it."
The BBC will:
- Use nationwide and local networks to deliver the switchover message.
- Harness local and regional services to deliver geographically targeted communications.
BBC One and BBC Two will be the key services used to promote digital switchover, through in-programme captions advising viewers of the impending loss of their analogue channels. These services are also likely to be used to run television campaigns which target digital conversion of the most vulnerable groups, for example older and some disabled people.
In these ways, the BBC will work with Digital UK to ensure that all UK television viewers know about switchover and have the opportunity to prepare for it. In addition, regional services will deliver a more targeted message as digital switchover rolls out across the UK.
Further to the Copeland switchover campaign in 2007, a thorough analysis of the Digital UK marketing and communications programme will be conducted by independent experts. The communications activity in particular will benefit from the lessons of a completed switchover campaign as it enters into full-scale implementation and related significant expenditures, and the BBC will aim to learn from these. The BBC will also analyse results of the audience surveys conducted by Digital UK to track success of the full-scale switchover campaign and to ensure that all groups experience equality of access.
5 Work in partnership with other organisations to help all audiences understand and adopt emerging communications technologies and services
BBC Trust: "The BBC should work with other UK bodies to end the 'digital divide' between those who enjoy the benefits of digital technologies and those outside that group."
The BBC will:
- Work to support the media literacy of all of its audience.
- Aim to be a trusted guide to new technologies for audiences.
- Work with the wider industry to provide clear messages around benefits of emerging technologies.
Working with a range of partners, the BBC aims to help all audiences to "access, understand and create different types of media". The BBC will continue to play an active role in cross-industry initiatives to promote media literacy, as a founder member of the Media Literacy Taskforce and the Media Literacy Charter.
The BBC has implemented a range of projects and services with the objective of improving media literacy. Going forward, the challenge will be to drive greater coordination and consolidation to ensure a coherent and comprehensive offering which audiences find valuable, across the internet, television and radio. A major pan-platform campaign will be launched to engage digital media novices and 'refuseniks'.
Through bbc.co.uk, the BBC will be a trusted guide to the wider digital world for all users, irrespective of background or experience. For the young in particular and other vulnerable groups, it will offer a safe place to be, where reliable, enlightening and entertaining information can be found, and where more creative users can share their own self-generated content.
The BBC will work with all other key stakeholder organisations - commercial companies, NGOs and government bodies - to create clear and understandable messages around the benefits of digital technologies.
6 Support the Government's targeted help scheme to help the most vulnerable during digital switchover
BBC Trust: "During digital switchover some vulnerable groups will need help to buy and install new equipment. The BBC should help deliver the Government support scheme for these groups."
The BBC will implement the targeted help scheme, in line with the Government's policies. The BBC will focus on providing assistance in the switch to digital television to the over-75s and the severely disabled. It will offer the most cost-effective means of receiving digital television on one set, providing installation, aerial upgrade if required and ongoing assistance in using the equipment.
The BBC will communicate effectively with eligible customers to make them aware of their entitlement and ensure that they are offered help in the most appropriate way. It will continue to consult with target groups to ensure that the diversity across and within those groups is acknowledged and considered fully. It will coordinate its communications with those of Digital UK and will work closely with charities and other non-government organisations.
The scheme will be reviewed in an Annual Report by the BBC Trust, which has specific responsibility to ensure its value for money.