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What's the future for News?

Helen Boaden | 17:15 UK time, Friday, 6 July 2007

I gave a speech at Broadcast's Future of News conference on Wednesday. You can read what I said there below. Let me know what you think...

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I’d like to start by firstly thanking all the people here – broadcasters and journalists – who have stood by the BBC during the long 114 days of Alan Johnston’s captivity.

We are of course overjoyed that Alan has been released but we are also hugely grateful to everyone inside and outside the business who have shown him and us such support and solidarity. It really made all the difference.

Now... there’s a paradox about the BBC. From the outside it can often seem overbearing, over confident and frankly, at times, overwhelming – like a great big elephant apparently hoovering up audiences and stomping all over markets and shareholder value.

From the inside, it’s very different. There the BBC often feels less like an elephant and more like a mouse. Inside the organisation, we sometimes feel we’re too timid, too slow, not modern enough. And in that mode, you can forget the three billion or so of guaranteed income; forget the 80 years of glorious history with its extraordinary record of innovation and imagination; forget the organisation’s unique ability to unite the nation, if not the world, on the big occasions.

Over the years, BBC insiders have often had a frankly baffling ability to see their own situation in negative terms. Talk to any of the BBC leakers that crop up on Media Guardian and they will whisper that morale has never been so low, management has never been more out of touch and the future has never been bleaker.

It’s all a little perplexing given the real privilege and power of our unique position in the media marketplace.

Yet there are real challenges facing the BBC and my part of it – BBC News. And today I want to share some of those and talk about how we are planning to survive them and thrive.

Firstly the threats: what keeps me awake at night fretting now that Alan Johnston is safely home.

Well it’s not the obvious concerns like the new licence fee.

You will have noticed how our language on the licence fee has changed. Where once we called it “disappointing”, now we use that all-purpose management euphemism “challenging”. And in that shift we reveal the journey we’ve been on from dismay to disappointment to a new sense of realism. As Mark Thompson said on Monday, our much tighter funding along with the government’s proposed 3% efficiencies per year over the next five years, requires a change of size and of attitude. The BBC of the future will still pack a powerful punch but it will be smaller.

Do I hear the sound of hollow laughter from some of you at the very idea of the BBC shrinking itself? It is genuinely radical I know. But we recognise that the economics of our new situation will inevitably determine our size.

For News it’s likely to be an uncomfortable and difficult time as we adjust to a thriftier world. The BBC will always protect its journalism but no-one is immune from the pressure for efficiencies. We are working hard on ideas which we hope will meet the efficiency targets. I can’t talk in detail about those proposals because they need approval from the BBC Trust before we can implement them. We expect the Trust to give their judgement in the autumn.

I don’t relish another round of job losses after three years of Value for Money cuts. No-one in BBC management does. But I am a realist and I can confidently predict that within five years, BBC News will be somewhat smaller, even more efficient and as Mark Thompson has outlined, packing a punch in a multi-media world.

So I do worry about the money but not obsessively.

Because I started my journalistic life in a commercial radio station that nearly went bust – I actually took voluntary redundancy and walked into a BBC job the next week - I know exactly how lucky we are at the BBC to have guaranteed income at all. I thank God for Lord Reith and the remarkable resilience of the licence fee.

So what other real issues should I be fretting about?

Well there have been suggestions that our precious licence fee should be top-sliced. Clearly if that proposal is serious, there’s an argument to be had - but that’s not my biggest concern.

Nor is the new regulatory framework we are learning to enjoy at the BBC. No-one could dispute that the new BBC Trust is keeping us on our toes and demanding a greater accountability and transparency from us. And since those are things our journalism often points out are missing from other organisations, it’s not unreasonable that the BBC should have to demonstrate them.

And even the growth of new and daunting competition isn’t my top worry – though it comes quite close. And by competition I don’t just mean the tried and true competitors whom we love to beat but hold in real regard like ITN, Sky and CNN. It’s also the new boys on the block. I worry that a recent survey of the most trusted news providers in the world showed the BBC was top, followed by CNN. But it was Google – which doesn’t actually provide any of its own news but aggregates everyone else’s – which those surveyed decided was their third most trusted news provider.

So what is my top worry for BBC News – if all these aren’t enough?

Well it’s really about our relationship to the people who matter most – our audiences.

It’s about capturing and keeping their hearts and minds.

The one thing that we need to guard against more than any other is the possibility that BBC News could become a heritage brand – living on past glories and brand value but increasingly irrelevant to a significant part of the audience.

It’s not that people don’t think News is important

It’s just that gap between what people say and what they do.

Now that may sound daft when at the moment we reach 80% of the adult population with BBC News on TV, radio or online. But the picture is complicated:

TV consumption is dropping as we all know. And the online services aren’t yet making up the gap.

And with particular audiences, it’s clear that like other broadcasters, we are struggling. It’s not a disastrous story – we know that 70% of 16- 24 year-olds are connected to BBC News in some way every week.

But the ways they get their news are definitely changing.

Fewer than 25% of 15- 24s watch 15 consecutive minutes of BBC News on TV in any given week.

For the record, I am not someone obsessed with “The Young” – I used to run Radio Four so I know the value of the so-called “older demographic”. I also recognise - as perhaps more of us should - that we are an aging population and we ignore that trend at our peril.

But if BBC News is not to slip silently and gently into a service for the Saga generation, it needs to connect deeply with the interests and habits of the young whilst being confident enough not to feel it is simply led by them.

In our search to find new ways to connect to this vital audience, we are lucky to have a fantastic model in Newsbeat on Radio One which is the epitome of a confident news service utterly in touch with its audience but unafraid to give them the difficult, public service stuff too. For example, if a story on the European Union is really important, Newsbeat will find a way to do it with as much intelligence and insight as they would a major entertainment story.

And it’s often Newsbeat listeners who alert us to important stories with wider implications. It was Newsbeat listeners who told us about the army equipment failures in Iraq. Why? Because among Newsbeat’s audience are a large number of squaddies and their friends and families. And they trust Newsbeat to tell their story.

But of course we need much more than Newsbeat. And in recognition of that fact, we’ve recently completed a major piece of work which we’ve called Creative Futures. You will have seen and read both Mark Thompson and Mark Byford – the Head of BBC Journalism – talking about it.

What that revealed was that while many of the young may rate the BBC, we can’t assume, as we did with their parents, that at a certain point they will simply migrate to being BBC News consumers. They are growing up with far more choice in terms of their news providers.

What’s more, we have to ask ourselves how much they will actually want the kind of News that we like now once they are adult.

In all honesty, I don’t think most teenagers have ever really been passionate about news. I certainly wasn’t. But we’ve relied on them becoming more interested as they took on financial and family responsibilities.

That may happen again. But we can’t assume that today’s under-25s are as interested in civic society and the wider world as their parents were. They certainly don’t seem to share the baby boomer’s enthusiasm for marching in support of social and political change.

But we have to be careful here. Their reluctance to vote and their apparent political apathy does not mean that they aren’t interested in what’s going on around them. Our research suggests they feel passionately about all sorts of issues – but they expect to get their News in ways that work for them.

Remember: this is the generation of Facebook and YouTube - which can seem a tad trivial and self-obsessed to an older generation. But they are simply a way of life for many teenagers in Britain today.

So how are we planning to woo the next generation into News?

Well no-one pretends it’s easy but we are working on several fronts.

The heart of our approach is the strategy you need with any audience: start where they are, not where you would like them to be.

So we know that the penetration of broadband is higher among audiences which currently consume less journalism (the young and those in digital TV homes).

While 16-24s are watching less TV than their counterparts in previous decades, they spend three times as long using new media than over 25s.

We also know that in the US, the internet is the primary source of news for people under 30.

So you will be unsurprised that our major focus for reaching the young is interactivity via the web and mobility. We have plans – still to be approved by the Trust - to build on our prize-winning website to create a service we are provisionally calling My News Now.

This will be a service which allows highly sophisticated personalisation – so whatever your age or interests, you can get the subjects and the styles of news which you find attractive – when you want them, for the present moment or to download for later. There will be audio and video on demand and aggregated pages on a huge range of specialisms.

This should also be a service which offers you incredibly detailed information and news on your local area.

And of course, all of this should be available as a mobile service – as long as we do it with sensitivity to those already in the market place.

But interactivity isn’t just about personalisation. It’s also about reshaping the relationship we have with our audiences so that those who want to engage directly with the News – and that will often be the young – can do so easily and effectively.

Our user-generated content hub – the rather pompous description of the desk that takes in the texts, e-mails, stills and video which our audiences send us – has been expanded and expanded but is still struggling to keep up with the huge amount of material that our audiences send us. The 7 July London bombings demonstrated that there were hundreds of newsgatherers out there who could collect images which we couldn’t.

And last Saturday’s attack on Glasgow airport was another sharp reminder of the newsgathering capacity of the general public with a mobile phone camera or video.

This kind of two-way relationship is now so important we are opening our UGC hub for 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

But as I made clear earlier, it’s not just about the way we deliver news; it’s also about what we deliver.

And this requires a really subtle and often difficult balancing act between being inspired by what the audience is interested in – without being led by it.

Let me be quite clear. If the BBC ever simply followed audience taste in an unthinking way, we should hand back the licence fee. We are not a market-led organisation. We get the privilege of the licence fee to give people more than they expect. It is our job to make news judgements about what is important and significant - as well as what is popular.

And part of that balancing act is clocking where subject work best for audiences. So on Radios One and Two and the Six O’clock News on BBC One, there is a genuine appetite for intelligent news about big brands, entertainment and major developments in the lives of superstars. Whereas on the Ten O’clock News on BBC One, there is much less appetite for entertainment news.

Lord Reith might not have liked it – he had a problem about the very idea of entertainment on the BBC at one time – but if we are to remain relevant to a new generation, we have to engage with subjects that once seemed quite alien to us and apply our usual values and journalistic rigour.

Once upon a time the BBC cringed when a major Royal story hit the headlines and we left it to the newspaper review to tell the public what was happening. Now we have two incredibly effective Royal correspondents who manage these stories with confidence and all the journalistic rigour you’d expect from an story on the BBC.

Eventually of course, we can envisage a world where many audiences have abandoned news on channels altogether and will simply log on to connect to the range and type of stories they feel like watching or listening to that day. They won’t bother to find out what the BBC thinks is the most important – top of the bulletin – story. When that time comes, tensions about where and when entertainment news appears on air will disappear.

But I think that day is some way off.

In the meantime, we will be pursuing as much innovation as possible within the idea of interactive news via broadband. It’s not just about connecting to the young now. It’s about making sure that when they are middle aged, they feel engaged with the BBC because it’s absolutely not a heritage brand. It gives them news they trust in ways that are convenient and in a style that resonates with them.

And that word “trust” brings me finally onto our values.

Because when I worry about us becoming a heritage brand, I never worry about our values.

They are perhaps old-fashioned, though I would never claim that the values of accuracy, impartiality and fairness are ours alone. I have far too much respect for our domestic competitors.

But in a highly crowded news market place where there is pressure on everyone to make impact, there could be an inevitable drift towards views not news in all parts of the media.

And we know that some audiences like that. The Fox News model works incredibly well for a lot of viewers.

But for the BBC to earn its money – and continue to have outstanding trust levels – I can’t ever see a time when we would abandon impartiality as our core value.

At its crudest, it means we don’t take sides either implicitly or explicitly. That may not make us friends in parts of the press, the chattering classes or indeed parts of the audience – but it’s the bit of our heritage brand we lose at our peril.

So – if you ever think of me lying awake at night fretting about the future of BBC News – remember that what I am really worrying about is the most fundamental and important question of all. How we keep the engagement, the interest and above all – the trust - of audiences now and in the future.

Comments

  • 1.
  • At 08:16 PM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Bedd Gelert wrote:

Helen,

I fail to see how a cut of 3% needs to result in a 'shrinking BBC' ??

Commercial organisation often use a rule of thumb that they must either cut costs by 10% year-on-year, or produce 10% more with the same cost base year-on-year.

Surely you have to face these commercial realities ?? I am a huge fan of the BBC but I fail to understand why you can't leverage cost savings and continuous productivity improvements. Look at the leaps and bounds increase in productivity made by software companies.

Yet you seem to resort to cuts in the sharp end, say Newsnight journalists as a first step, rather than a last resort. I simply don't think you are being creative and imaginative enough in getting more 'bang for the buck' simply because you have never had to bother !! Greg Dyke confirms in his autobiography that for years the sole management obsession was getting the largest possible licence fee settlement - worrying about what was going to be delivered with the money came later.

And for heaven's sake don't bring in a load of management consultants as they will simply want a cut of any savings. Use the bright, intelligent people you have working for you to come up with ideas for more effective and efficient ways of spending the money you have been given.

Personally I think the 3% cut will be a blessing in disguise - if you had achieved the settlement you were asking for, this might have been the very last Charter Renewal granted !

The BBC bas excellent credentials. Impartiality is the BBC's major strength and trumph card. No other broadcaster has been able to challenge or eclipse the BBC in getting the balance right.The Editors have to be congratulated on their astute eye for detail combined with a critical sense. So representing facts succintly along with balanced and often humorous reporting are the hallmarks of a very mature well-run news organisation, However the BBC should not rest on its laurels but should continue growing from strength to strength.For example Gordon Brown's new role as PM has been covered with great tact with all the high drama of terrorism put in proper perspective.The scourge of terrorism should be wiped out completely.

  • 3.
  • At 12:26 AM on 07 Jul 2007,
  • Steven wrote:

That my news now idea seems a good one, but it's always a central team approving images and videos and so on. instead of going to the wikipedia extreme of a free for all image dump, you could have moderators working on a volunteer basis, who do the approving to the same standards. Then a smaller team could be working at the BBC to ensure guidelines are being followed, etc.

The idea of having personalised news seems pretty powerful, but it would have to be based on tags rather than broad categories of entertainment or business etc.

  • 4.
  • At 07:28 AM on 07 Jul 2007,
  • Anthony Walker wrote:

Helen,

Just as I was about to type an angry note about becoming a marketing-led group aiming to 'capture hearts and minds', your paper addressed it head on: bravo! The danger is that reporters feel the need to provide the news that people want to hear which can clearly degenerate into focus-group led bias.

When it comes to impartiality, the only aspect that doesn't seem to be on the agenda is expertise. There seems to be an assumption that the 'expert correspondents' are truly masters of their briefs. To me, however, many seem lightweight and superficial. Those that have a real depth of understanding and a grasp of the origins of the issues they cover, be it scientific matters or geopolitical issues, are better placed to pitch the questions and the stories with real balance, and vice versa. How about establishing expert advisory panels that would grade the level of expertise in your correspondents and recommend professional development to fill the gaps?

Lastly, I wonder if you would be able to provide a link to the 7 minute film on BBC News in the future - it sounds fascinating!

If you want an example of how the BBC is innovating, consider the on-going trial at the BBC News website looking at video on-demand. The project, involving reporters and producers from TV and online, is experimenting with different formats, reporting styles and means of delivery. This shows that there are pockets of innovation within the organisation. The challenge is making innovation one of the key values of the a news organisation like the BBC.

  • 6.
  • At 12:09 PM on 07 Jul 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

The news will survive with or without BBC. One way or another the truth will get out even if BBC is still there to block it or skew it. BBC certainly knows how to waste money though. It's like a government bureacracy run amok. Here's one example; What started as a way for your audience to write an opinion which might be published has mushroomed into a vast series of Blogs with hundreds if not thousands of messages every day. Were that not enough, there are a perpetual series of paid junkets all over the world. In around a year, WHYS's entourage with all its "kit" has traveled all over the United States, Africa, India, just to name some of its tours and is soon headed back to New Orleans, for some cool jazz and and creole cooking and a broadcast or two if they can squeeze those in. I don't think there is a US Congressman or Senator who has done so much traveling at taxpayer expense in a comparable period. And now we have the creation of the BBC Kiddy Division, Sesame Street BBC style, news programs by the children, of the children, and for the children. Throw in a bunch of technical gimmicks, new buildings, perpetual makeovers and reorganizations and it's clear, as the old saying goes, "if you can't sell the steak, sell the sizzle." It should be called Bombed out Broadcasting Corporation, an empty hollow shell, an ashen hulk of its former glorious self living on its past reputation alone, taxation without representation, that's what I call it. Glad I don't live there to foot too much of the bill, PBS and NPR subcontracts are too much as it is. What ever happened to short wave radio?

  • 7.
  • At 12:25 PM on 07 Jul 2007,
  • Alex Swanson wrote:

"At its crudest, it means we don’t take sides either implicitly or explicitly."

Yes you do, constantly. A couple of years ago, for example, you spent a whole weekend with every news channel plugging a survey of the Conservative Party which you claimed showed strong support for Kenneth Clarke, even though it did no such thing. When I complained, I was ignored - even though I spent months trying to get a response.

This was particularly blatant, but I could quote many other instances.

  • 8.
  • At 12:33 PM on 07 Jul 2007,
  • Isabel Witty wrote:


As long as the BBC NEWS continues to be so much superior to the news downunder NZ and avoids excessiveness of adverts (as we suffer Downunder to our despair) I will not be grumbling.
yrs.etc. Isabel Witty.nz

  • 9.
  • At 08:15 PM on 07 Jul 2007,
  • Michael McFarlane wrote:

Here is the News; `The News has been lost`. I think that just about sums up the quality of the BBC news service.

  • 10.
  • At 05:23 AM on 08 Jul 2007,
  • Inna wrote:

It’s a good speech. But it doesn’t address the issue of why the BBC is wrong so often. The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict/Palestinian Civil War is perhaps the most tragic example of the way in which the BBC was so wrong. The BBC has persistently downplayed the Civil War aspect of this conflict with the tragic result that Alan Johnston was (for months) trapped as if “buried alive”. The EU is another example. How is it that the BBC has missed—persistently—the biggest story vis a vis EU—that the peoples of Europe do not seem to want it as envisioned. How is it that the BBC did not foresee that Poland would scupper the agreement; that the French would vote “Non”? And how did the BBC manage to miss the fact that Brown’s approval ratings soared in the wake of the recent terror attacks?

And since the speech does not address how the BBC gets it so wrong so consistently, it quite obviously does not suggest ways for fixing it.

Regards,

Inna

  • 11.
  • At 11:27 AM on 08 Jul 2007,
  • nothern bloc wrote:

“The organisations unique ability to unite the world”

Got any examples?

  • 12.
  • At 02:24 PM on 08 Jul 2007,
  • Henry wrote:

Ill blood on your hands every second you ignore exposing the truth about 911. Every person who's blown up.... You can stop the violence NOW if you would just speak honestly about 9/11. After you read this, every person who's murdered in Iraq and Afganistan will influence your karma. Speak now or live a thousand lives of misery.

  • 13.
  • At 04:13 PM on 08 Jul 2007,
  • Tom Hewitson wrote:

Hi Helen,

I just wanted to say that I'm part of Newsbeat's core audience age range but I find it overly simplistic and with way too much focus on celebrity driven stories and human interest reporting. When will the BBC start to treat young people with a bit of respect and understand that we do care about the big issues.

I'm not asking for Today programme level of reporting or anything, however it is no surprise to me that the majority of young people don't consume 'hard news' because everything that is packaged in a way that is acceptable to them is 'infotainment'.

I'm hoping your new personalised service will go some way to solving some of these issues but I am not convinced as the idea that young people aren't interested in politics seems to be becoming a self fulfilling prophecy as the media fails to report on the issues that are important to them.

  • 14.
  • At 08:30 PM on 08 Jul 2007,
  • Pete wrote:

Helen Very interesting speech and the comments (so far) Im as thick as two short planks but news needs to be accurate. If the flood water is 6" deep dont tell us its 9" just to get wow factor! we can go to channel x for that! I could go on but it gets more boring. Keep going and smile.

Pete

  • 15.
  • At 11:31 PM on 08 Jul 2007,
  • Jamie wrote:

What future for the BBC? The more I get my news online and can compare other sources to the BBC the less relevant the BBC becomes. I don't mind how much you are a tool of the establishment I would just resent having to pay a licence fee to support you. To give but one example, you could at the very least have the decency to ask the Labour party to contribute to Kirsty Warks salary!

  • 16.
  • At 11:52 PM on 08 Jul 2007,
  • Johnny Morris wrote:

The issue is really with news editors isn't it Helen? As long as you have middle-class, middle-aged, white people in charge the news agenda will always reflect their preoccupations. There's never going to be any change at the BBC until the Oxbridge ruling class get kicked out and a modern news agenda takes over. Rip up the current template of what is "news" and take risks, start playing, living and enjoying it again. Some parts of the BBC even go to great lengths to play up stories that you know will only appeal to the SAGA generation as you call it. What the hell is going on?
And frankly, with the greatest grovelling respect, there's never going to be any change at the BBC while the 'lifers' are in charge.

  • 17.
  • At 01:09 AM on 09 Jul 2007,
  • Dinger wrote:

It may give you comfort to know that way over here in Australia the BBC is without a doubt, rated as the best, most highly respected and most reliable media outlet for global news - by a large core of Australian print/web readers - because of its superior impartiality and mature reporting without the hype and sensationalism.

I feel confident that BBC's consolidated experience, expertise and sophistaction will rise to the occasion and serve its readers as well in the future as now.

It is heartening to hear your assurances that impartiallity will remain BBC's core value, in spite of your fears that "views news" rather than factual reporting is gathering trendy appeal.

Obviously the concern is that "views news" has the potential to distort fact. I think the natural conclusion is that such will ultimately destroy the trust of the thinking reader and ultimately lose the thinking readership. Non-factual reporting throws credibility out the window.

Journalists must gather their collective insight and fully grasp WITH CONFIDENCE that no reader, at any age, is interested in reading material passed off as "fact", while doubting that it is fact at all. The reader feels "duped". Without hesitating, I know every reader would say that will lose audience engagement more quickly than any conservative, unengaging factual reporting ever will.

But, to appeal to the young, why can't the delivery of print/broadband news develop a format to suit both readerships - both remaining under the one branding cover but clearly defined and presented sectionally and separately? For example, views news be applied perhaps to lighter content, topical issues, entertainment and sport, while political and business news remain impartial and factual style? Teens - 25's don't read either of the latter, except where human rights issues are involved. They can be engaged very well on these issues in 'Have Your Say', as you do it now, which is already more than engaging them, it involves them and is a great medium format to do so.

I read these grand words about not focusing too much on what is youth, and what is popular, and about focusing instead on what is important.

But I see also a very common fault in not knowing what is important.

Life is the great gift. We are all guests at this party, from the young, the middle aged to the old.

We should have no complaints, for it doesn't get any better than this.

What is important isn't what most think it is. We are all only brief guests. And, by comparison the BBC is an immortal behemoth.

What is important is that the party for the mortals continue after we have all retired from the ball leaving the immortals to reign over the future of the party that began long before they were brought into existence.

Yes, we all have responsibilities, moral responsibilities far less relative than is often conjectured.

At the base of our moral responsibilities is not any responsibility to anyone else at the party, and certainly not that we should ensure each of us, young or old, popularly enjoys to the fullest the party life is to the exclusion of our primary moral responsibility.

And, our primary moral responsibility is to the mortal future, not to the immortal.

Every profession perennially seeks to proclaim itself amorally beneficent.

Journalism are no different.

But there must be some measure of it.

Measure it thus: Since you were five years old, a precious age as are all ages; with each passing year there are successive generational sets of five year olds. Do you think the quality of life and the standard of living of these incoming five year olds has been on the whole improving over what you experienced?

And now consider your profession's seemingly mindless ethics in this light, as you note for yourself and us, that somehow, journalists continue mindlessly reporting as if elated the sum products of our culture that delivers us to the false progress that is answering catalyst to the foregoing question.

The empirical truths reported by journalists are quite deceiving.

Reporting categorical truths, that which is true in every instance without exception, is a much more difficult task, and likely well beyond the scope of this publication-enterprise effort.

But, if you are not part of the solution, perhaps you should be more careful you are not part of the myriad and immortal Pandora's Box problems.

Yes, there are some things none of us need to know, whether by atomic fission of yellow dog journalism, how to destroy the world for one.

But more so, there are also many fields of study that should not be encouraged with rave reviews by mindless journalists intent upon informing their readers of everything new under the sun.

Look back in your archives, and you will find rave reviews of phrenology, pre-WWII German industrial progress, aboriginal conquests, the development of the atomic bomb and jet planes to deliver them too, Boeing's new 787?

And, at least initially, not a single journalist decried of this "progress".

Don Robertson, The American Philosopher

I must admit that I always get worried when I hear about too much personalisation of the news. It would be terribly sad if someone's interests in the news simply revolved around, say, Manchester United and Paris Hilton. I'm certain that a dedicated service serving those purposes could be generated giving that person a bespoke service. But where is the room for broadening someone's tastes?

My example may be a little extreme, but the beauty of an edited news programme is that I learn about things that I didn't know I was going to be interested in.

Obviously some degree of personalisation is prevalent currently. I watch the Ten O'Clock News rather the Six O'Clock edition, and even though work means I can't see the earlier programme, recent experience tends to suggest I wouldn't watch it anyway. Similarly, I choose The Guardian rather than The Sun for a daily paper. Yet both pairs of programmes and papers carry a broad selection of stories.

It seems to me that we need to be careful that we are careful about how we serve singular interests, and always ensure that a breadth of news is available to all, and wherever possible, kept popular.

Certainly, Man Utd fans probably enjoy getting stories about their club as often as possible, but they need to know if the polar ice caps are melting, soldiers are dying in Iraq, Hamas and Fatah are at loggerheads in Palestine or whatever.

  • 20.
  • At 09:52 PM on 09 Jul 2007,
  • pete wrote:

gosh I relise now why you need a 6th floor office keep going filter out the sandwidge short of a picnic comments dont think I need to tell you which ones!

  • 21.
  • At 10:27 PM on 09 Jul 2007,
  • pete wrote:

My comment was wiped out while you were previewing it dont panic Ill try Walt Disney!!

  • 22.
  • At 10:30 PM on 09 Jul 2007,
  • JB wrote:

"Inside the organisation, we sometimes feel we’re too timid."

Funny that considering I was at a meeting at the weekend on the subject of the media where more than one BBC worker spoke saying that there is a culture of bullying at the BBC and the bullies rise to the top pretty fast. Doesn't sound much like a 'timid' organisation to me.

The BBC has lived inside the rear end of the government for the past few years and was the main cheerleader for the massacre that has taken place in Iraq. People don't forget things like that in a hurry and they certainly are not fooled by the BBC's hilarious self-labelling of itself as 'liberal'. This is widely viewed as a very deliberate attempt to ensure that the BBC remains firmly to the right of the political spectrum.

The question is, for how long will you continue to ignore the sizeable amount of voices who are saying 'we see through your agenda'?

Every day more high profile figures are speaking out about the BBC's pro-establishment, destructive and inherently racist bias - Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Johann Hari, John Kampfner, Tim Llewellyn, John Pilger, Noam Chomsky, and Rageh Omaar are to name but a few.

One day soon the BBC will simply have to step out of the political bubble in which it inhabits - BBC workers themselves are becoming restless let alone the masses of licence-fee holders who resent the propaganda which they are paying for.

  • 23.
  • At 11:11 AM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • M wrote:

Why do you think there is so little direct communication of decisions, choices and opinions from the top individuals at the BBC? They've avoided blogs for many years? Why?

Statements of sensitivity and determination are welcome but where are the decisions? The Trust seems just like a comfort blanket that dilutes accountability at senior levels - difficult decision? just send it to the Trust.

Blogs are so effective across the globe and across multiple time zones. This process of more transparency should continue! People can then judge who has accurately predicted and supported the successful future strategy of the BBC - and who has successfully managed the BBC. Why continue to communicate via the newspapers? It's not very effective if you actually want to communicate and invite focussed discussion.

If this process of greater openness does not increase, the BBC top management structure will continue to be based on social convention and familiarity, as evidenced by the lack of diversity at senior levels.

  • 24.
  • At 02:39 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • pete wrote:

No comment yet!!

  • 25.
  • At 03:29 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • pete wrote:

Hope your reading this feed back Helen one thing you cant do is please us all! gosh Im working on that!

  • 26.
  • At 07:03 PM on 10 Jul 2007,
  • J Westerman wrote:

Obviously, the news will always be the news. It is a matter of fashion how many newsreaders it takes to present it and how many stages, orchestras, batteries of lights, graphs, charts and electronic gimmicks are deemed necessary.
Personally I prefer just the news with a newsreader who is more interested in presenting the news than him/herself.
USA's Jon Stewart Show deals very well with the “expert” outside 10 Downing Street syndrome.

  • 27.
  • At 03:08 PM on 11 Jul 2007,
  • merle wrote:

You say: 'We don't take sides, either explicitly or implicitly.'
US press critic George Seldes says: 'The most stupid boast in the history of present-day journalism is that of the writer who says, 'I have never been given orders; I am free to do as I like'. We scent the air of the office. We realise that certain things are wanted, certain things unwanted." (quoted Extra! December 1995. As long as the BBC is run by pale males who favour the Washington Consensus a certain implicit impartiality is inevitable. And perhaps more glaringly obvious to your wider, non-British audience.

  • 28.
  • At 01:00 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • Peter Benton wrote:

Interesting reading, very different from the setup that I saw when I went to AP as the executive architect for TC stages 3&4 in 1961 to anylyse the News preparation situation there, so that the new News studios and offices at TC could be planned. Sorry I think that the News that they sent out then was better than the more elaborate fluffy items of today. Come back Waldo Maguire!

  • 29.
  • At 01:07 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • nick bielby wrote:

Despite the excellent efforts to make news available the BBC presentation is disgraceful. Nice neutral looking presenters stand there presenting like they are doing some sort of quiz show. My 13 year old refered to it as like a game show. I am sure I've caught them smiling when announcing death & injury. Serious international news, such as the atrocities of Dafur, are pushed aside for the sake of a midlands based man with a 3 legged pigeon!!? Come on BBC, get back to the real world.

  • 30.
  • At 01:24 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • muhammad mustafa arif wrote:

For being a media student to know about all the current issues and matters gng around the world my first priority is to go through bbc to find out out the real picture of any issue.The trend to give comments after every new story is giving the chance to the audience to have ful participation in the news process and to know the creditablity and the valuablity of that news item .

  • 31.
  • At 09:32 PM on 12 Jul 2007,
  • J Westermanj wrote:

A blog has just been closed down which dealt with the premature ending by the BBC of Tony Blair's last speech to Parliament. Most contributors did not accept that it was an accident, although it almost certainly was just a super clanger of a decision.
I think that no one will say that the recent incident involving the Queen was deliberate. Just another clanger, but a really extra super-massive one this time.
Dear Beeb I hope your luck changes. It cannot get much worse.

  • 32.
  • At 01:34 AM on 15 Jul 2007,
  • max wrote:

Dear Ms. Boaden,

You and I know that the last comment was not dated the 9th July 2007, don't we?

Max.

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