Date: 05.06.2013 Last updated: 06.10.2014 at 11.20
This event to listen to audiences was arranged in partnership with the Royal Town Planning Institute and took place immediately before the Institute’s planning conference in Cardiff City Hall. The discussions took place at 2 tables with the gender balance close to equal. A dozen guests were present, the age range of those present extended from individuals in their twenties, to those in their sixties. The key focus of the event was the BBC Trust Service Review of BBC Network News, currently underway, though other issues were also discussed, as raised by participants.
News and Current Affairs
BBC News was the preferred choice of many of the
participants, with the local, national and international news held in high
regard. The BBC’s local news was praised for giving coverage to local planning
issues. A typical comment was “I trust it [BBC News] and I find it as
accurate as it can be at the time – solid, dependable, informative and good
Many participants used the BBC News website during the day
to keep up with developments in news stories with some using the BBC News app
on their mobile phones, though opinion was mixed as to whether the app was as
user-friendly as other news apps.
Radio Wales and Radio Cymru were praised for their local
news coverage and many participants listened to those stations in the morning,
though one participant felt the latter’s coverage “was too heavy in the
morning” but the regular travel updates made it required listening at that
time of day.
Some participants felt that there remained a north-south
divide in terms of Network news, but that coverage of north Wales on BBC Cymru
Wales news was generally good.
There were mixed views on whether news was presented in
sufficient depth during news bulletins, with some participants praising BBC
News for its comprehensive coverage while others felt that this was very
dependent on the time available. Some participants felt that Newsnight
was the best forum for an in-depth discussion of news items. Other participants
felt that while sport news was given a place in every bulletin, this was not the case
for other subject areas such as business or the arts. Many participants felt
that current affairs programmes were not long enough to properly discuss
substantial issues, and they welcomed the continuation of discussions on issues
raised during BBC One’s Question Time programme on BBC Radio 5 Live.
Some participants felt that it would be good if stories
given attention in programmes in the past could be followed up later to report on subsequent developments. In
this context, particular reference was made to the issue of fly-grazing covered
on BBC Wales’ Week In Week Out some time ago, but given little or no
attention since, despite it being a very important issue. Other participants
criticised another episode of Week In Week Out about highly paid local
authority officials, with one describing it as “appalling journalism of envy”
and expressing the view that the salaries paid were reasonable for such senior public
servants in Wales, and that the comparison with the Prime Minister’s salary was
inappropriate, and that it would be better to compare their salaries with those
of senior civil servants.
The lack of coverage by
BBC of issues relating to sustainability was criticised by one participant,
with the point made that the Sustainable Development Bill, currently being
considered by the National Assembly, was leading the world in this area, and
merited more coverage. Other participants praised the accessibility of BBC
Cymru Wales’ journalists, saying that they were easy to contact and make aware
of newsworthy events.
Some participants praised BBC Parliament’s coverage of the
UK’s legislatures, considering that it provided lots of information that was
otherwise ignored, and expressing the view that it fulfilled an important
public service function.
Other issues raised included the enjoyment of participants
of drama content with BBC Four being specifically mentioned. Other participants
also praised BBC Four for its coverage of music and musicians on Friday night.
Concern was expressed
regarding the use of background music during programmes, which some participants
felt made it more difficult to hear the narrative, especially during news
programmes. Other participants felt that the background music was often very
appropriate and carefully designed to enhance programmes, with Life on Earth
used as an example in this regard.
Radio listening encompassed a wide range of BBC radio
stations, including Radio 6 music, Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 4, Radio Cymru and
Radio Wales but many participants saying that they listened less to the radio
these days, than they had in the past.
On-line and on-demand
Participants praised the BBC Radio iPlayer, with one
participant saying “It’s fab! I like the scrolling aspect since it makes you
look at things you might not have done otherwise, a bit like a newspaper”.
The BBC’s websites were widely praised by participants and
considered required viewing for keeping up with news during the day.
The BBC’s sport coverage was praised, though some felt that
the BBC was losing ground to other broadcasters in terms of securing sports
broadcast rights, and that it was a shame that sport coverage was being taken
away from the population at large and being limited instead to those who could
afford to subscribe to premium sports services.
The BBC was praised for its broadcast coverage of the London
2012 Olympic Games with many participants feeling that its coverage was far
superior that of Channel 4’s coverage of the Paralympic Games.
Reception and other general issues
Participants raised issues regarding reception problems for
both TV and radio in various parts of Wales during the event. One participants
said that the FM signal of Radio Wales was poor in Porthcawl while another complained about terrestrial digital TV
reception in the Dyfi valley.
TV licensing was criticised for its heavy handed approach to
collecting the licence fee and participants raised questions regarding the
future of the licence fee, since their perception was that a decreasing amount
of content was now consumed at the time of broadcasting. Participants confirmed
that they structured their viewing of TV material themselves by using recording
services such as the BBC iPlayer, TiVO and Sky+. A key criticism was that
material did not remain on the iPlayer for long enough.
There was a consensus that being able to access the BBC
Archive would be huge educational and social resource.
Concern was expressed
regarding the possibility of digital switchover for radio, with most
participants of the view that the availability of DAB radios in cars was very
low as yet.