Audience Priorities 2015/16

Each year the four Audience Councils, for Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales, advise the Trust on priority issues for audiences around the UK. The priorities for audiences in Northern Ireland for 2015/16 are as follows:

1. A strategic process of engagement with young people

The BBC’s strategy for replenishing its audiences is at the heart of securing the future of the BBC, taking account of new technologies, changing audience behaviour, access to services and how content is promoted and discovered. We recognise the broad age demographic in Northern Ireland but believe the needs of young people are paramount and that it is vital that a long term view is taken, in terms of audience development, with a greater focus on engaging with this audience to understand and best serve their needs.

2. Understanding value for money

In the coming year, Charter renewal will present challenges for the BBC around audiences’ perceptions of value for money. We believe that a more in-depth understanding of the drivers of value for money would be helpful to the BBC. Furthermore, we also believe that a strategic approach to communicating to audiences in Northern Ireland - and more widely - the range of services that the BBC provides across platforms, may help to present the BBC as a more unified service and create better public awareness of the breadth, quality and value of the BBC’s overall offer.

3. Continued development of the BBC news agenda

As highlighted in this report, audiences in Northern Ireland have a particularly strong appetite for news and current affairs output and want local news that encompasses more positive stories and a wide range of issues of interest and relevance to daily life, including more international coverage. Council recognises the challenge for local and network news services in keeping pace with changes in society, part of which is the emerging debate on devolution, as well as technological advances and the challenge of instant news-making via social media in this context.

We believe that a sustained focus is needed to further develop the local news agenda, building on progress and strengths across all platforms, as well as a more fully developed, intrinsic approach to network reporting of devolved policy and issues.

4. Access to BBC services

Access issues for some sections of the audience in Northern Ireland extend beyond the availability of digital infrastructure to affordability as well as quality of provision, especially in rural areas. In terms of universal access to BBC services, we would wish to highlight that these issues present significant challenges in serving all audiences that must not be overlooked.

5. Network supply

The progress in network supply in Northern Ireland towards the delivery of 2016 supply targets is laudable and we recognise the importance of targets and quotas in being able to achieve this. The nations-to-network strategy, with opportunities to further enhance the portrayal of Northern Ireland on the networks whilst delivering efficiencies and minimising the volume of network repeats, is a key strategy going forward.

Council believes there is scope for further developments in these areas. This will require improvement in the commissioning process which underpins network supply and the development of indigenous talent. Council wishes to see transparent access to commissioning, with a focus on volume and quality. This is central to ensuring continuity of commissioning and programming in support of a vibrant and sustainable creative production base in Northern Ireland. In this context we recognise that the unique partnership between the BBC and Northern Ireland Screen will be key to ensuring positive opportunities and outcomes for the local creative sector.