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Annual Review 2002/2003
BBC Board of Governors' Consultative Group Report
The Governors’ World Service Consultative Group was originally established following the 1996 BBC restructuring to provide the Governors with independent external advice on the range and quality of World Service output. The Consultative Group aims to review World Service output in English and other languages over a three-year cycle.
In 2002/03 the Consultative Group reviewed output in English, Arabic, Hausa, Somali, Portuguese, Spanish and Chinese. This selection followed the three-year research cycle, but was also informed by the political developments in the Middle East and the wish to review World Service output (Arabic) to that region. For each of these languages, a number of assessors were recruited by an independent market research and consultancy firm. Up to six assessors were chosen for each output category and a total of 46 reports were received. The assessors were asked to listen to up to ten hours of output spread over one week in December 2002. The assessors’ reports were compiled during a very busy period in terms of world news, with the report from the UN arms inspectors in Iraq dominating the agenda.
The Consultative Group is satisfied that all the World Service output reviewed this year attracted high scores for authority and accuracy. This is particularly commendable since the week of output selected for the assessment was exceptional in terms of the world news agenda.
Dame Pauline Neville-Jones DCMGProfessor Monojit ChatterjiBill EmmottSir Michael PerryWilliam Shawcross
1 Dame Pauline Neville-Jones DCMG
BBC Governor (Chair)
2 Professor Monojit Chatterji
Professor of Applied Economics
University of Dundee
3 Bill Emmott
Editor: The Economist
4 Sir Michael PerryCBE
Chairman, Centrica plc
5 William Shawcross
Journalist and author

The Consultative Group notes that the BBC Arabic Service is an important language service performing well in a challenging market. Recent data shows that in March 2003, during the Iraq War, usage of the Arabic online site increased by 135%, to a record of over 20 million page impressions. The Group notes that some of the scores given by the assessors are lower than the previous year, when the Arabic output was also reviewed by the Group. The Consultative Group urges World Service to continue with its programme of improvement, notably with the aim of:
+ Obtaining a wide range of opinions within its news output
+ Involving listeners more in the output
+ Ensuring presentation style is more contemporary and continues to be seen be as independent, fair, impartial and authoritative
+ Increasing the appeal to a broader range of age groups

The Consultative Group notes the impressive impact made by the World Service output to Africa in English, Hausa and Somali, as well as the high scores this output attracted from assessors. The Consultative Group believes that the World Service output to Africa has a strong educational dimension, bearing in mind its appeal across all socio-economic groups.
The Consultative Group commends World Service for achieving a significant impact in the USA in the context of a highly competitive media environment, with a weekly audience of 3.9 million, its highest ever. It notes that co-productions with American public radio are crucial in attracting that audience. However, it asks World Service to keep such co-productions under review to ensure that they demonstrate the BBC’s strengths of accuracy, impartiality, relevance and depth, and do not lose BBC tone and style.
The Consultative Group observes that the World Service faces difficulties in making an impact in Latin America in Spanish and Portuguese. The Group is concerned that the awareness of the BBC output in the region appears to be low and agrees that high profile local partnerships are key to the delivery of the output both on radio and online.
The Consultative Group notes that restrictions imposed by the Chinese authorities on the distribution of the BBC World Service limits its impact, both on radio and online. In that context, the Consultative Group urges World Service to develop local partnerships based on the provision of education, business, science and language training programmes, which the Chinese authorities are less likely to object to. The World Service should also review the definition of the target audience for its Mandarin online site and the scope for broadening its agenda beyond news and current affairs.
The Consultative Group notes the continuing growth in usage of the World Service English news online site. In particular in March 2003, during the Iraq War, usage of the site grew to its highest level ever at over 150 million page impressions, a growth of 80% compared to the previous month. The Consultative Group feels that this provides an impressive testimonial of the value of the site for a world audience. The Consultative Group believes that the site could be more actively promoted on World Service radio.

BBC Board of Governors' Consultative Group Report
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