|Professor Monojit Chatterji|
Professor of Applied Economics, University of Dundee
Editor, The Economist
|Sir Michael Perry, CBE|
Former Chairman of Centrica plc
|Stewart Purvis, CBE|
Former Chief Executive ITN
In addition to specific Language Service reviews carried out annually,
the Group called for a special study to be carried out in 2004/05 into the
BBC's global reputation. The aim was to understand the reasons for the
variation in this important aspect of BBC World Service's performance.
It followed a decline in the BBC's global reputation for trust and objectivity
in some markets after the 2003 Iraq war. The exercise was conducted by
independent research organisations.
Independent research evidence indicates that BBC World Service
and Global News Division's reputation for trust and objectivity is
higher than for other international broadcasters in virtually all
We also welcome that the BBC's global reputation for trust and
objectivity appears to have improved in markets where it suffered
a reverse during and immediately after the Iraq war.
However inconsistencies in some of the results give us concerns
about the survey methodology which we ask to be re-examined
This year the Consultative Group decided to modify the research
methodology used to assess BBC output. In place of a structured
questionnaire and scoring system we decided upon a listening panel
approach in order to create the opportunity for new insights. The
Group commissioned listening panel assessments of the BBC's output
in English for Asia, Arabic, Russian, Indonesian and French for Africa.
Overall we are satisfied that all BBC World Service output reviewed this
year was of an extremely good standard and that no significant concerns
We are encouraged by the positive comments from panellists about the
English radio output. There was praise for the network's depth, breadth, high
journalistic quality and professionalism. We found that the sound and style of
the network was liked by panellists as this adds to its vitality, immediacy and
impact. The Group recognises the steps which have been taken by World
Service to make globally significant stories relevant to locally based
audiences – for example, its coverage of the Asian tsunami.
The culture of interviewing was raised by some panellists as an issue,
particularly what they felt was an overly assertive and occasionally rude
attitude taken by presenters towards interviewees. Some objected to this,
others welcomed it as an essential tool in the quest for truth and
understanding. The Group believes that a tough interviewing style is
appropriate in some circumstances but it should not overstep the mark.
We urge BBC World Service to remember the sensitivities of its
diverse audience when conducting interviews, but without sacrificing
its journalistic objectives and values.
The Group welcomes the strong praise given to the Grant-in-Aid
funded internationally facing bbcnews.com website for being an
authoritative source of news and information. We note the views of
panellists that the quality of its reporting was generally superior to other
news sources which panellists had consulted. The Group believes that
interactive elements add strongly to the websites appeal. We urge
BBC World Service to continue to innovate in this area.
The Group recognises the good progress made by the BBC World English
language television channel in the past two years. We observe that BBC
World was felt by panellists to offer wider coverage and was better balanced
than its competitors. We support the channel's attempts to increase its
appeal in different markets through a more regional focus. At the same time,
we ask BBC World to ensure that it maintains its identity by providing a
global view, and to guard against too much of a London-based perspective.
This is the third year that the Group has reviewed the BBC's Arabic Service.
We find that sound and solid progress has been made in modernising the
format, sound and style of this important service. We note that the quality
of news reporting has improved but believe that more can be achieved.
There was criticism by some panellists that some interviews began without
a proper introduction. The Group asks the service to ensure that the
context for an interview is always explained so that the listener is properly
positioned beforehand. We found the BBC's Arabic language website to be performing strongly. Panellists credited it for
being interesting, relevant, credible, reliable and a detailed source of
information. They seemed generally satisfied with what the website offered
and applauded its comprehensiveness as well as its ease of navigation.
However, the panellists were less happy with technical aspects. The Group
asks the Arabic Service to examine ways to improve the look of its website
as well as the technical experience for users.
In its 2004 Report, the Group was concerned about the sound and style of
Russian Service programmes. We note that these aspects have improved in
the perception of this year's assessors. However we are concerned that
some Russian panellists found the depth of analysis insufficient. They also
wanted more views from outside Russia about Russian affairs. As the Russian
Service seeks to recover lost audience, the Group understands the desire to
meet the needs of its FM rebroadcasting partners for pace and energy. We
ask the Russian Service to continue its good progress towards making its
programming more accessible to new FM audiences. But we also ask the
Service to ensure that the BBC's brand values for depth, breadth and
analysis are not sacrificed in the process.
The Group welcomes the positive comments made by panellists about the
BBC's Indonesian Service, who described its programmes as comprehensive,
accurate, timely and greatly enhanced by the variety and quality of its
sources. We note that panellists found very little to criticise, and found the
radio service to be superior to other international news sources. We ask the
Service to maintain and build on this strong base.
The Group is pleased that the BBC's programming in French for Africa
received praise for its accuracy, timeliness, ease of understanding, sound and
style. It notes that amongst generally positive comments, there was criticism
from some panellists that programmes were not sufficiently relevant to
them. The Consultative Group reminds BBC World Service to ensure
that the right balance is struck between its coverage of international and
national stories, and to tailor its coverage and treatment to maximise
relevance to audience groups in different language markets.
Last year the Group commissioned a special study into editorial standards
which confirmed the BBC's output was impartial. This year, we welcome the
fact that none of the listening panels felt that any of the BBC material they
assessed was biased. We also found that panellists in Cairo judged the BBC's
Arabic radio service to be less biased than the Al Jazeera TV channel. None
of the languages assessed were criticised for having any anti-Islamic bias. The
Group is most encouraged by these positive indicators.