Trust says BBC children’s services perform ‘very well’
The BBC's output for children is much loved by viewers, a BBC Trust review has found.
In a report published on Tuesday, the dedicated children's channels CBeebies and CBBC, along with their online content, were described as performing "very well".
However the Trust added the services, which are the most watched children's channels in the UK, face a challenge in maintaining audience reach and impact.
Compared to viewing figures for 2011/12, which were at a five-year high, CBeebies and CBBC saw a slight drop in ratings for 2012/13, respectively reaching 48% and 36% among their target audiences of under-sixes and 6-12 year olds.
Other findings from the review include:
- The channels were less likely to be watched by viewers with access to satellite and cable services - although it was noted that CBeebies and CBBC were on the second page of Sky's children's electronic programme guide (EPG)
- CBeebies and CBBC will commission more content that appeals to viewers at the older end of their target age ranges, who are less inclined to watch. The networks will also provide more "joined-up" programming to encourage children aged four to six years old to move onto CBBC
- The Trust supports the current scope of BBC audio content for children, available on the online CBeebies Radio player and on Radio 4 Extra, but said the BBC Executive should increase awareness of it
- CBBC and CBeebies continue to under-perform in Northern Ireland and northern England. Although the gap between audience appreciation in northern and southern England has reduced since BBC Children's move from London to Salford in 2011, partly due to major audience events
- The Trust also expects the BBC's mainstream channels and stations to "take account of children as a potential audience" and work with BBC Children's to meet the needs of young audiences. They also suggested showing some CBBC programmes that appeal to wider audiences on other channels after 7pm, similar to BBC Three's recent broadcast of the popular children's drama Wolfblood
Due to BBC cutbacks, the budget for BBC Children's - one of the corporation's five editorial priorities - is being reduced in real terms from £102m in 2011/12 to £91m to 2016/17.
This will result in CBeebies and CBBC commissioning fewer original shows in the next two years. There has already been a fall in entertainment commissions in line with the Executive's strategy, and a slight drop in factual output while drama remains stable.
BBC Children's has said it will focus on a smaller amount of "high cost, high-quality" programming but some children have complained about the number of repeats at weekends.
In their review, the BBC Trust said they did not want to see the range of programmes "reduced too far in favour of there being fewer, bigger, reach-driving titles".CBBC app
BBC Children's also admitted it felt "at risk of falling behind children's media consumption habits" regarding its online output, which was described as basic compared to commercial content.
To address the issue, the BBC will launch more games that are compatible with mobile devices and a CBBC app in the near future. CBeebies launched their first app in August.
CBBC is also developing plans to reach out to those who use the YouTube website among its target audience.
BBC Trustee Alison Hastings said they heard an "overwhelming amount of praise for the BBC's children's services, both from their young audiences and from adults".
"The challenge for the BBC is to keep pace with change and make sure it's providing programmes, information, apps and other content when and where children want and expect it - we're encouraged by the BBC's on-going work to tackle these challenges and we'll expect to see progress being made in the coming months."
A BBC Children's spokeswoman said: "We're really pleased the BBC Trust has concluded that our children's services are performing well and are making a strong contribution to the BBC's public purposes.
"CBeebies and CBBC remain the most-watched children's channels in the UK and the Trust's consultation confirms how loved and valued our TV, web and radio services are by children and parents alike.
"We are very aware of the challenges ahead and we'll be working with colleagues across the BBC and the Trust to address them."
The BBC Trust report is available here.