BBC Trust - Trust responds to Digital Britain report

Date: 16.06.2009     Last updated: 23.09.2014 at 09.50
Category: Licence fee
On behalf of the BBC Trust, Chairman Sir Michael Lyons said:

"The BBC Trust has welcomed the Digital Britain review and participated constructively in it. We recognise that there are problems to be addressed and opportunities to be grasped, and we will continue to push for the public's concerns to be put centre stage in this final consultative phase.

The Trust reviewed the BBC services specifically targeted at young people - BBC Three, Radio 1 and Radio 1Xtra, and looked at how well the BBC serves younger audiences across all of its TV, radio, and online services.

The review also included other content for younger audiences, such as BBC Switch and the formal learning provision like BBC Bitesize.

BBC Trustee Alison Hastings, who led the review said:

"Young audiences are one of the hardest groups to reach. Our review shows that BBC Three, Radio 1 and 1Xtra are doing a particularly good job in serving young people. BBC Three's strong reputation for comedy, Radio 1's promotion of new UK music and ability to reach a large number of young people with its news bulletins, and 1Xtra's support for music not heard elsewhere are all strong achievements.

"Although the BBC is doing well, there are areas where more can be done, for example through more ambitious speech output on Radio 1, continuing development of BBC Three's online activities and encouraging young people to access BBC news in ways that suit them. We will now look to BBC management to build on the good work they have in place."

The review's findings and the Trust's actions

Overall performance on all BBC services

The BBC serves young people well. Nine out of ten young people use BBC services every week, and the BBC as a whole provides a good range of high quality content for this group. BBC One remains the most viewed service in the UK amongst young people, the BBC's formal learning output is extremely popular and BBC Switch is serving young teenagers well, especially on radio and online.

However the BBC faces growing challenges in engaging young people with its news provision and reaching teenagers on television. These are areas in which we will be monitoring the BBC's action in the future. And while we have not considered editorial matters in this review, we are very clear that while content can be tailored in tone, subject nature and presentation, to suit younger people it must always conform to the BBC's editorial guidelines.

BBC Three

The Trust found that BBC Three has become increasingly effective at reaching its target audience. The evidence shows that the quality and range of the channel's output is good overall, and we are supportive of its strong track record in taking creative risks and using new on-air talent.

The Trust believes that BBC Three's focus should remain on UK originations, and as part of this we support BBC management's aim to offer a full range of programming on the channel. However, awareness and usage of BBC Three's online activities is low, and we believe the service can achieve more in this area.

We will amend parts of the channel's service licence to set a clearer framework for how the channel should deliver public value to young people. In addition we have identified some wider issues about for all BBC television channels, such as reach in ethnic minority homes, which will be addressed in the review of other BBC channels, to start later this year.

BBC Radio 1

The Trust found that Radio 1 reaches a large number of young people and is highly effective at promoting some of the BBC's public purposes. Its news reaches a very large young audience, and it plays an important part in promoting new music artists in the UK.

However we believe the station should renew its focus on serving the younger age elements of its target audience, where reach is declining. We will be monitoring its reach to the 15-29 year target audience closely in the coming years. We also believe that Radio 1 has the potential to deliver some further public value through its speech output, given the strength of its market position.

BBC Radio 1Xtra

The Trust found that Radio 1Xtra is a growing service, although digital-only distribution has limited the size of its audience. However listeners are positive about its output, particularly its music.

The Trust has approved two changes to the service in order to allow it to offer greater public value. These are defining the window for playing new British music in order to help the station increase its support for emerging artists and making changes to its news output so that it can increase the reach of its news, and better meet the needs of listeners.

Notes to Editors:

The review began in September 2008 and included a twelve week consultation with licence fee payers. This was promoted on the services themselves and elsewhere. The consultation received over 9000 responses from the public; this is the largest response the Trust has had to one of its service reviews.

The Trust also drew on a range of audience research and held meetings with young people at a series of events in conjunction with the British Youth Council.

For the purpose of the review younger audiences were defined as 13-34 year olds. The Trust's previous review of children's services considered all services for those 13 and under and 34 is the top end of target audience for BBC Three.