The BBC today announced a package of measures to increase the prominence and appeal of current affairs programming on BBC ONE, including increased investment and extra hours in peak time.
This represents the highest number of hours of peaktime current affairs on BBC ONE on record.
The decision, signalled in Building Public Value, was made jointly by BBC Television management and the BBC's Journalism Board.
Measures across the portfolio of current affairs on BBC ONE, to be introduced in 2005/6, will include:
Doubling the number of midweek hours of current affairs and investigations specials to 16 hours per year
In all, an additional 10.5 hours of current affairs in peak time: an increase of 28%. This brings the annual total of current affairs in peak to 48.5 hours
An extra £3m invested across current affairs, including Panorama and Real Story
Panorama to account for at least half of the 16 hours of midweek specials per year -
High profile one-hour Panorama midweek specials on Wednesdays (9.00-10.00pm) to increase from four per year to eight per year;
Panorama run at 10.15pm on Sundays increased from 28 x 45 minute programmes to 30 x 45 minute programmes;
Increased commitment to commissions from independents.
Real Story will evolve into a single subject programme and extend to 32 editions
Undiminished commitment to BBC hallmark of investigative journalism
Increased commitment to marketing and promotion of current affairs on BBC ONE
The strategy aims for a wide audience reach through a range of current affairs programmes including Panorama, Real Story and Nations and Regions current affairs programmes - such as Frontline Scotland, Spotlight (Northern Ireland), Week In Week Out (Wales) and Inside Out (English Regions) - all on BBC ONE, together with related programmes that complement the core current affairs offer, such as political programmes and consumer affairs.
In addition to this new core commitment, BBC ONE will continue to commission many hours of peak-time serious factual programmes from outside of the Current Affairs department - recent examples of which include dramas with contemporary significance, for example, Dirty War and documentaries such as The Secret Policeman, Secret Agent and The Protectors - as well as consumer affairs such as Watchdog.
In addition, the politics strands such as Question Time, This Week and The Politics Show also remain part of the BBC ONE current affairs mix.
Helen Boaden, Director, BBC News, said: "These are exciting plans which aim to fulfil the commitment that the BBC has made to increase the prominence and appeal of current affairs programming in peak time on BBC ONE.
"From our audience research, we know that people consider current affairs programming to be very important to them as citizens and we are fully committed to delivering the BBC's hallmark of trustworthy and rigorous investigative journalism that is relevant to people's lives."
Jana Bennett, Director, BBC Television, said: "Panorama is one of the most authoritative and respected parts of the BBC ONE schedule and will remain so.
"Our decision, after long consideration, to leave it in its regular Sunday night slot is designed to secure its award-winning, hard-hitting journalism and to support the programme makers in pursuing the agenda they believe in.
"The major increase in midweek peaktime specials will also give the programme the opportunity to create additional impact and to promote the sense of an agenda-setting event in the midweek schedule."
Notes to Editors
The present definition of Current Affairs used by broadcasters and Ofcom reads: "A programme which contains explanation and analysis of current events and issues, including material dealing with political or industrial controversy or with public policy. Also included are investigative programmes with contemporary significance."
Panorama is the BBC's flagship current affairs programme and the longest-running public affairs TV programme in the world.
The programme, in its current Sunday evening slot, regularly attracts three million viewers.
The programme, which celebrated its 50th birthday on 11 November 2003, has specialised in scrutinising the use and abuse of power and making hard-hitting and thought provoking television.
In 1995 Panorama broadcast the most famous programme in its recent history - Diana, Princess of Wales, interviewed by Martin Bashir talking candidly and for the first time about her life and her marriage, seen by a record 22.8 million people.
And investigative reporter John Ware won a number of awards for his programme Who Bombed Omagh?
Panorama's guiding principles include uncovering and investigating stories about Britain and the world, reporting with authority and context and providing journalism that makes waves and withstands scrutiny.
Panorama regularly has a real impact on the wider world.
Among the more recent programmes, its three investigations into the anti-depressant Seroxat had an extraordinary and ongoing impact both with the Panorama audience and then in the field of drug policy and regulation.
The investigation into standards of domiciliary care for the elderly provoked more than 900 emails to the Panorama website and has opened up a number of new areas for investigation.
The investigation into Olympic corruption led the IOC to immediately announce an Ethics Commission enquiry to investigate the allegations, and the IOC member named in the programme was suspended from the IOC. The programme made 5,000 front page headlines around the world.
The current Panorama series started last month with award-winning journalist John Simpson presenting a compelling and powerful overview of the situation in Iraq.
Later this month Declan Lawn examines why some schools are failing to deal with bullies, and with access to a top hospital and access to independent experts Panorama examines what New Labour has done for the NHS.
Real Story, presented by Fiona Bruce, has generally featured three items per programme.
It will now be single subject in format, with a serious agenda of significance focusing on accessible reporting which highlights revelation and engaging story-telling.
Close working links with both BBC News and the BBC's regional news teams enables the programme to draw on a massive story gathering base and use the UK's brightest and best on-screen talent.
Real Story has the flexibility to cover late breaking stories and "goes live" when required.
As with other programmes in the current affairs portfolio, Real Story has significant impact on the areas it reports on.
Real Stories Nurseries Undercover investigated private pre-school care in the UK. Ofsted's monitoring process is likely to be revised as a result of the findings.