Date: 20.05.2013Last updated: 04.07.2013 at 16.00

Category: BBC Red Button; BBC Online; Service reviews

BBC Online is the favourite source of news, sport and catch-up TV on the internet for many licence fee payers, but audiences say the website should be easier to navigate.

The BBC Trust has today published its second service review of BBC Online and Red Button, which makes a number of recommendations to improve people’s experience of the BBC’s online and digital content. Online was last reviewed in 2008 and Red Button in 2010.

The review found that both services are popular, offer a wide variety of distinctive content that can be accessed on different platforms including computer, mobile device or television, and audiences trust their content as much as traditional BBC broadcast news. However it has identified some areas for improvement, particularly in BBC Online’s navigation and search functions, and its local pages.

BBC Online is one of the Corporation’s most widely-used services, reaching 22 million people each week, who value its quality and distinctiveness. BBC Red Button is a well-used provider of news, sport and weather, with audiences appreciating its extended coverage of events such as Wimbledon and Glastonbury.

BBC Trustee Suzanna Taverne, who led the review, said:

"In the five years since we first reviewed BBC Online, the digital world has advanced rapidly and people’s expectations of online services have changed. For example, in 2008 the iPlayer was just launching, whereas now audiences consider it a ‘world class’ part of the BBC’s online offer.

"Website users told us they value BBC Online and trust its news and sport above any other online provider. Its ability to provide easy access to exciting content is second to none, as it proved last summer with its hugely successful coverage of the Olympics.

"However, people also raised some areas where they would like to see improvement – such as the search and navigability functions, and the local news sites – so we have made recommendations to the BBC Executive that will help the Online offer to remain the ‘go-to’ website for millions of users each day."

The review noted that both services have made significant progress since the last time they were examined, with major improvements to management, accountability and value for money. However the Trust has made the following further recommendations:

  • The Executive should consider how to improve navigation across the different parts of BBC Online, with improved links and consistency of design, as well as an improved internal search facility, to ensure users get the most out of every visit.
  • The BBC should develop plans to provide better local news and information, as a number of consultation respondents, and the BBC Trust’s Audience Councils, told us the BBC’s local sites are not as strong as its UK and international news.
  • The Trust supports plans to re-launch the Knowledge and Learning sites and provide better links to and from other BBC content, and will monitor management’s progress on this.
  • Many users want to be able to personalise the site according to their own preferences, and the BBC should explore ways to make this possible, while always safeguarding people’s personal information.

The Trust will expect the Executive to provide regular updates on BBC Online and Red Button’s progress against all targets set out in the review, with the first reports within six months.

During the review, the Trust noted that the two services are so closely aligned that it would be sensible to bring them together under a single service licence. This would help them to complement each other in future, especially as technology advances and BBC Red Button increasingly becomes a gateway to access BBC Online.

As a result, the Trust has today launched a public consultation into its proposal to merge BBC Online and BBC Red Button under a single service licence. More information on the proposal and information on how to respond to the consultation, which will be open until 13 August, can be found here:

Public consultation on BBC Trust governance of BBC Online and Red Button via merged service licence

The Online and Red Button service review report can be read in full here:

Trust's review of BBC Online and Red Button

Notes to Editors

  1. Under the terms of the BBC's Charter and Agreement, the Trust is responsible for issuing service licences for the BBC's UK public services. These service licences include the remit of the service, the key requirements necessary to meet the remit and ensure the BBC's public purposes are delivered, and headline budget. The Trust must carry out a full review of each BBC service which has a service licence at least once every five years and consult publicly.
  2. The public consultation on the latest review received 1,800 responses from licence fee payers. The review also considered responses from industry and other stakeholder organisations, as well as carrying out audience research.
  3. The scope of the review did not include the CBBC and CBeebies websites or the editorial content of BBC News Online. These will both be examined in greater detail in separate, future reviews.
  4. The last review of BBC Online in 2008 found that it was an excellent service, highly valued by users and meeting the majority of its service licence commitments. Potential for improvement was identified in the internal search and navigation features of the BBC’s websites, meeting audience expectations of open dialogue, and linking to external sites.
  5. The last review of Red Button in 2010 concluded that the service was widely-used, with digital text and live events bringing in the largest audiences. The review recognised that the future development of the service would need to take into account many changing factors including the cost savings required by DQF.

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