BBC News and current affairs service review - comment by Richard Ayre, Trustee

Date: 16.09.2013     Last updated: 25.11.2014 at 12.22

Starting with its first tentative radio news bulletin in 1922 the BBC has built an unrivalled reputation for its journalism. Ninety years later the BBC's news and current affairs is consumed worldwide, admired abroad and respected and trusted at home - whether on radio, on television or online.  No part of the BBC is more important to its audiences than its journalism – they consume it in their millions, rely on it above all other sources of information, and rightly complain about it if they think it ever falls short.   

That's why in the summer of 2012, when the Trust was looking to schedule this year's series of its reviews of BBC services, we decided to look at BBC News.  We have looked before at the BBC News Channel and BBC Parliament, but never at the whole of the BBC's network news and current affairs across the board. Incidentally, colleagues at the Trust took this decision before the revelations of last autumn began what has obviously been a damaging twelve months for the whole institution. This is not going to be a review of those past events.

Today we are formally kicking off the process by opening a public consultation so that people can tell us what they think about BBC News and current affairs.  You can read more about exactly what the review will cover (PDF file, 66KB) but in essence we're looking at all of the BBC's network news output across TV, radio and online, and its network current affairs too.  We want to understand what audiences and the rest of the industry think about the BBC's journalism, how they use it, and in what ways they think the BBC could do better.  The BBC's journalism made for audiences overseas and in the devolved nations and around England is not part of this review – simply because including them this time around would make the project just too big to handle effectively.     

An important part of our work will be to look at the impact of the changing media landscape and how advances in technology are changing audience expectations. I spent much of the first 30 years of my career working in and around BBC newsrooms and I'm the first to recognise how much has changed in the business, both for those who work in it, and for the audience in the ways they can now consume it.  BBC news and current affairs content often looks and sounds different to the way it was even a decade ago, yet its core values have remained largely unchanged for generations: truth, independence, insight, challenge.  We want to consider how those values can best be maintained to inform ever more diverse audiences who will have greater and greater choice of where they go for their news and information in the years to come, so that the BBC remains as much a part of their lives as it has been of most of ours.  

In the coming months we'll be listening to BBC audiences, critics, supporters, and to the views of the BBC's news and current affairs teams themselves, and we'll aim to publish our findings around the Spring of next year. 

You can read more about the review and take part in the consultation here.