BBC News highly regarded and trusted but needs to act to maintain reputation with audiences, BBC Trust review finds

Date: 29.04.2014     Last updated: 23.09.2014 at 09.50
Category: Service reviews

The BBC's network news and current affairs is trusted and highly regarded by audiences, and continues to outperform other news providers on a range of measures, a review by the BBC Trust has found. 

The review, which looked at the performance of all of the BBC's UK network news and current affairs across TV, radio and online, found that the audiences think the BBC does significantly better than other news providers in providing up-to-date news, being easy to understand, giving in-depth coverage, having expert reporters, and covering a wide range of stories.  Four out of five UK adults watch, read or listen to BBC News each week, with BBC TV news alone watched by two-thirds of adults.

The review also found that use of BBC News Online has grown significantly in recent years, with the number of 'unique browsers' doubling from 11 million in 2009 to 22.2 million in 2013, as audiences access BBC News on an increasing number of devices.  There has been a significant increase in the number of visits to BBC News Online via mobile and tablet devices, with tablet usage up 75 per cent in a year, and while TV and radio usage remains high there are signs of pressure on these traditional outlets. 

However, the review identified a concern that younger audiences' use of broadcast news  is continuing to decline, and there is a risk that they may not turn to the BBC as they get older, as has traditionally been the case. 

Some audiences said that BBC News can feel 'distant' from their lives in editorial agenda and tone, and there are increased expectations about what BBC News Online should be delivering.  The BBC's current affairs programming is seen as being of high quality and keeping audiences informed of issues, but they rate it less well for offering fresh perspectives and covering issues that other channels would not, and  audience awareness of the different current affairs programmes  is low.  

This is the first time that the Trust has reviewed all of the BBC's network news and current affairs in the round.  Along with independent audience research, more than 9,000 people contributed to a public consultation as part of the review, the latest in the Trust's rolling programme of reviews of every BBC service. 

As a result of its findings the Trust has set out a number of actions for the BBC Executive, including:

  • Developing its online and mobile news provision so that it remains relevant for audiences in a rapidly-changing market;
  • broadening the agenda and tone of BBC News to address audience concerns that it can sometimes feel 'distant' from their lives. This includes making more use of regional and local reporters on national network news, and making further progress in creating  a more diverse workforce both on and off air;
  • Increasing the impact of its current affairs output, with  commissioning decisions  driven by the significance and relevance of the subject matter and the insight offered to audiences;
  • Ensuring that a wider range of international stories are available to audiences in the UK, making better use of the scale of the BBC's foreign newsgathering resources.

BBC Trustee Richard Ayre said:

“The challenges faced by BBC News in retaining its audiences and its reputation are by no means unique to the BBC, but the corporation's obligation to serve everyone means it must do better than other broadcasters. 

“Though news and current affairs are performing extremely well, the issues we've asked the BBC to address will help them to keep pace with changing audiences and unprecedented technological shifts.  None of this is about radical or sudden changes in editorial direction,  it's simply ensuring the BBC is fleet of foot in responding to the challenges ahead.”

The Trust's report and all the supporting evidence can be found here:

Service review: BBC Network News and Current Affairs

Notes to Editors

  1. The review's terms of reference can be found here (PDF file, 62KB)
  2. More information on the Trust's previous service reviews can be found here.
  3. The cost of the review as of publication today is £107,028.