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The BBC's Annual Report and Accounts for 2010/11

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Mark Thompson Mark Thompson | 11:00 UK time, Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Adele appearing in the Radio 1 Live Lounge during 2010

Today sees the launch of our Annual Report, heralding the end of an exceptional year for the BBC - a year marked by outstanding creativity, and major change within the organisation.

Highlights for me include the BBC Three documentary series Our War which I sat and watched with my own teenage children. It was exhilarating, disturbing, heartbreaking. And utterly gripping. It characterised much of the best of what the BBC achieved last year.

Other high points include Brian Cox's Wonders of the Solar System, and A History of the World in 100 Objects which was a phenomenon on BBC Radio 4, but with expressions and extensions across BBC services. The BBC Proms had one of its most ambitious and exciting season for many years while drama on television enjoyed creative success across a broad front: from Stephen Moffat's Sherlock to the unforgettable Five Daughters. It was also an extraordinary year for international news with the Japanese tsunami, events in the Middle East, and the death of Osama Bin Laden.

Audience performance and approval has been strong, with further growth for many digital services, but of course not everything has gone right. In addition to the occasional creative misfires, the Miriam O'Reilly case was a reminder to the whole of the BBC of our duty to reflect, on air and in all our employment practices every part of the society we serve.

There were big events behind the scenes over 2010/11 as well, above all a licence fee settlement completed in record time last autumn. The settlement gives the BBC certainty over its funding for many years and will help us plan for the future, but the settlement means we need to find savings and make difficult choices. We've already taken significant steps to prioritise spend on content and services, reducing senior management pay and numbers and top talent fees, and making many other savings. This year we will take that agenda to the next stage as part of a comprehensive plan for the BBC between now and the end of our Royal Charter in 2016.

We are hard at work on this plan right now. Inevitably, there are many difficult questions and trade-offs to work through. We know, however, that both our governing body, the BBC Trust, and the British public will want to ensure that the commitment to quality and originality which marked the best of 2010/11 will guide all our decisions about the future. Now more than ever, we are determined to put quality first.

Mark Thompson is Director General of the BBC


  • Comment number 1.

    I have a comment relating to performance against public commitments - in his RTS Fleming Memorial Speech last week, Lord Patten said:

    We will now think again about Service Licences. These are probably the most important part of the governance system. They define the essence of each BBC service. By 2012 the Trust will have completed a full assessment of the performance of every service. And at that point we will look again at the licences and will try to re-cast them in a simpler format.

    The current quotas and targets are useful in guaranteeing minimum levels of public service output. And they provide some certainty and transparency for the rest of the industry. But they can be a crude tool. We want to be sure they do not inhibit creativity. So we will remove any that we think are unnecessary.

    I appreciate the need for a small degree of flexibility over the content of the Service Licences, but the removal of Service Licence 'specifics' (the quotas and targets) could be used by station controllers to allow them to act in a unilateral and unaccountable fashion, and I believe the Executive has hoodwinked the Trust over this matter on the grounds that the current Service Licences 'inhibit creativity'. The reality is that Service Licences have been altered by the Executive without public consultation, and that alterations have been made prior to the Trust rubber-stamping such changes, and that changes have made that the Trust didn't even mention had been changed. (Evidence for this can be seen from the history of the Radio 4 service licences for example, and their treatment by the Trust's R3/4/7 final review.)

    I feel three principles arise from the current situation:

    • It is important that Service Licences should wherever possible retain specific objectives, quotas and targets. If we do not have objective criteria, station controllers cease to become accountable, both to the Trust and the licence-payer.

    • I don't suppose the average licence-payer is that fussed whether the authority for the Service Licences is vested in the Trust or the Executive, and if the Trust really has finally thrown in the towel on the control of the Service Licences and relinquished control to the Executive, then so be it, but I feel it should be made clear exactly which party now has that control, otherwise we will be batted from one to another party if wishing to raise comment.

    • Whichever party is in authority and control of the Service Licences, I feel it is essential that any proposed changes should be made transparent and open to public consultation and scrutiny.

  • Comment number 2.

    Putting quality first.

    A typical example of a committee created phrase led by a marketing department.

    If the management is quality then it is true.

    Does the BBC have many creatives left in the ranks or are they all freelance now? If so then the quality does not belong to the BBC.

  • Comment number 3.


    How is it possible to justify this opinion whilst crippling and debasing your formally adequate blog system by imposing a ridiculously low character limit of 400 characters?

    What a load of doublespeak!

  • Comment number 4.

    Further to my comment #1, the Trust has issued its new Review of BBC Governance, one of whose principal aims is to "be clearer about the roles and responsibilities of the BBC Trust and the Executive".

    Whilst it is reassuring to hear the Trust will consult on any proposed changes to the Service Licences before they are re-issued in 2012, I feel the review fails to address the central question of exactly who controls their content, and I remain deeply sceptical over the motive concerning the proposed removal of some conditions and quotas in the Service Licences - this process will only serve to provide the Executive with a smokescreen to hide further cuts in quality programme areas. The removal of conditions and quotas will neither make the Service Licences easier to understand nor will they provide greater clarity.

    The Trust has failed to make clear the division of responsibility between itself and the Executive in this matter.


  • Comment number 5.

    4. At 02:21 20th Jul 2011, Russ

    In most organisations the removal of tight control is a classic precursor to outsourcing (as the outsourced areas look less restricted) or in the case of the BBC it may be privatisation of some services.

    The trust does have to be ready for this distinct political possibility, brought about no doubt in the cause of cost cutting.

    The upcoming enquiry into the media (especially the points on plurality) will also have a bearing.

  • Comment number 6.

    John_From_Hendon, I should point out that the 400-character limit applies only to the new 'correspondent pages' on the BBC News web site and not to any other BBC blogs. No such limit here, for instance.

    Steve Bowbrick, editor, About the BBC

  • Comment number 7.

    6. At 17:00 20th Jul 2011, Steve Bowbrick

    May I suggest that, in the interests of putting quality first, a few select respected correspondents are given the chance to return to proper blogs that conform to the original BBC thinking on what a blog is?
    -Minimum duration, even for event-based blogs, of at least a week
    -Commitment from the author to engage and respond to the audience
    -Periodic short posts in reverse chronological order with permanent URLs
    -Ability to take and display comments
    -RSS feed users so our users can subscribe to them without coming to our site

    (quoted from https://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/4727579.stm )

  • Comment number 8.

    Chris Patten boasts that the BBC has made more than £1bn in savings since 2008/9- imagine the programmes that could have been made had the 'savings' been made previously. It has to be wondered whether BBC management has not been more interested in perpetuating itself and its culture- managing low expectations, spreading costs so that BBC programmes did not so outshine the (financially struggling) opposition (ie ITV) that the licence fee level (and high earners' pay, such as that of BBC management) might have been threatened- rather than serving the audience as best it can. Certainly, the paucity of frontline television entertainment in the highest cost genres of drama, situation comedy and light entertainment, compared to past decades, is astonishing. Cost cutting of radio (a low cost service), on an ideological basis- everyone must take the pain- is also ridiculous. As for the move to Salford- again ideological; what is wrong with the BBC's culture that it needs to move north now when it managed to produce so many programmes in the 70s, from a London base, that had a regional 'flavour' ?- it may produce operational savings, but it will take decades for those savings to balance the initial cost and goodness knows what UK broadcasting will be like in 10 years time, nevermind in 30 or 40 years (or even longer).

  • Comment number 9.

    Dear Mr Thompson,

    Liked your article in the Guardian: https://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/aug/24/james-murdoch-wrong-on-bbc. Especially the last few lines: The only reliable, durable and perpetual guarantor of independence is not profit. Nor who you know. Nor what corners you can cut. Its integrity

    Is it true that this was the only way forward was for the BBC to go on the F1 deal, was to jump into bed with SKY. Surely they could have held it with possibly Channel 4 or another Free to Air, (FTA), TV Company?

    Surely both main parties are tainted. Murdoch over the phone hacking scandal and Bernie Ecclestone over the Bribery & selling off F1? Allegedly.
    See links: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14697461 &

    What is even more upsetting is the lack of response by the fall guys: Ben Gallop & Barbara Slater. Ben's blog had over 8400 posts within 5 days. It would have lots more, but the BBC was frightened and closed it down, saying the subject matter was not topical enough! (In total over 11,000 posts were made, excluding the thousands made via Twitter/Facebook and numerous other media sites.
    Another one that closed down was by Peter Salmons. This was also heavily censored & deleted, (or moderated as the BBC likes to call it). Any blogs that are still going are also heavily censored, sorry moderated......

    There are at least two petitions out there, one of them has over 23,000 signitures and another one with over 32,000 signitures. Even allowing for doubling up on both e-petitions there are at least 30,000 and up to 55,000 people against this.
    Links: https://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/57

    It's now moved on from if the F1 fans can afford SKY or not; it’s the fact that the BBC has acted more like China & suppressed any news and forbidden any comment by its members. The British Board of the Collective, (from the Hive) or the British Board of Censorship. They used to be known as the defenders of the faith; the good old Aunty Beeb. Approx 4 weeks and not a squeak out of anybody.

    Even this Friday, Saturday & Sunday at the F1 at Spa, not even a whisper.
    Please do not ignore the licence fee payers/F1 fans. Thank you.

    PS: This is a song doing the rounds on Facebook/Twitter/Blogs etc:

    Not really a new title song, more of an ode to F1 to John Lennon's Classic tune Imagine. Cue the piano...

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 11.

    Obviously we have hit a raw nerve. Mein Furher, (sorry Steve Bowbrick), doesn’t like us. I've got news for him the feeling is mutual.
    Let’s keep posting to every new blog, that we feel needs our attention. If you find any good blogs, post them onto us.
    They will have to keep closing them down.
    All we want is the F1 blog to re-open and get our questions answered.
    See copies of post from Peter Salmons blog, from ' A fond farewell to Waterloo Road'.
    We may not win, but we can pee them off.
    --------------------------------------------------see below.......
    21.At 09:33 26th Aug 2011, Steve Bowbrick wrote:
    Morning all, Thanks for your comments. I've removed quite a lot of them because they're mostly about F1 and thus wildly off-topic. I appreciate the strength of feeling on the subject but I don't think there's much that we can add here, on this post about drama produced in the North, to a debate that's already attracted over 10,000 comments on relevant posts elsewhere. I'll remove further F1 posts from now on and close the post if necessary.

    Steve Bowbrick, editor, About the BBC

    Complain about this comment (Comment number 21)
    Comment number 22.At 13:50 26th Aug 2011, Piet Boon wrote:
    Thanks Steve, I hope you are aware that Peter Salmon is the boss of the BBC Sports head, and as such this protest is appropriately placed. Please close this blog until the BBC executive comes to us with the answers we asked for. And no, do not silence us by referring us to a flawed complaints system.

    25.At 20:01 26th Aug 2011, Steve Bowbrick wrote:
    No censorship here, GrassRootsF1Fan. I'm concerned only with the usefulness of this blog post. It's not about F1 so I don't want F1 comments here. I'm closing this post to further comments now.

    Steve Bowbrick, editor, About the BBC

    -----------------------------------------There! There! Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water, when you have a tantrum Steve. There's a good chap!

  • Comment number 12.

    @9. BNW

    You make several very valid points.

    And it's quite strange that the BBC Trust's own report into the corporations sports rights showed that Formula 1 was the BBC's best performing sport.

    F1 Cost per Viewer Hour = Hit
    F1 Cost per Viewer = Hit
    F1 Actual Reach 54% = Hit
    F1 Actual Live Rating = Hit

    Other sports in the report:

    Euro 2008 Cost per Viewer Hour = Miss
    Euro 2008 Actual Reach 35.2% = N/A
    Olympics 2008 Cost per Viewer Hour = Miss
    Olympics 2008 Actual Reach 42% = Miss
    Olympics 2008 live Rating = Miss
    Open Golf 2009 Cost per Viewer Hour = Miss
    Open Golf 2009 live Rating = Miss
    Snooker 2009 Cost per Viewer Hour = Miss
    Snooker 2009 live Rating = Miss

    So I think you're right in that the Sky/BBC deal was taken solely to stop Channel 4 from showing live free to air races, as FOM have disclosed.

    It's also shocking that the BBC are closing blogs, removing posts and even gagging their presenters, all in order to cover up their actions.

  • Comment number 13.

    Quality oh please you wish, The VOICE ANYONE. I will give the BBC managers one thing they have a great sense of humour!

  • Comment number 14.

    I completely concur with BNW's comments - articulate and intelligent like the vast majority of those added to Ben Gallop's original Blog of August 29th.

    So why are we not getting articulate and intelligent responses from the BBC?

    In fact, Ben G and Barbara Slater seem to have gone into hiding - I expect Gadaffi will be found first.

    The F1 fans are finding more and more BBC Blogs (like this one) to add comments to because the BBC keep closing them down but until we get some answers (I suppose an admission of guilt and an apology would be too much to ask for) we will keep finding more places to ask those questions.

    If cost-cutting and "what is best for the viewer" are the prime motives, then scrapping F1 on the Beeb and letting Channel 4 have it would have achieved this without tainting the Organisation.

    I know that I am not the only angry fan who has contacted my MP on this subject - I can only hope you will answer them as you are ignoring your viewers and not letting your presentation team mention the elephant in the room.

  • Comment number 15.

    I can only agree with most of the feelings on the other posts. Having now read most of the BBC exec and trust reports and the BBC charter I am even more baffled by this deal. In all the reports F1 is reported positively and mention is made of increasing viewing figures. Wimbledon this year attracted including highlights 56m viewers. To date with 7 races left there have been in the region of 40-45m viewers for races alone not including qualifying. So by the end of the season F1 viewing figures will by far exceed all the crown jewel events. I think we are due an explanation, as in your recent reports mentioned above you have pledged more openness with the licence payers so please honour this. There is mention of a cap of 9p in every licence fee pound allocated to sport. This equates to around £327m, surely enough to show f1?

  • Comment number 16.

  • Comment number 17.


    I am sorely dismayed that, with regards the contentious deal that has recently been announced relating to coverage of one of your most popular programs, the BBC staff appear to have not heeded your very wise words:

    "...trust in 21st century Britain is fragile for everyone. Trust in a given institution may be based on a great tradition and great inherited values, but it depends on what you do today. It has to be earned and earned again."

    "Public trust is the life-blood of the BBC. Without it, it has no value as an institution."

    - from your Westminster Speech 15/1/2008
    ( https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/theeditors/2008/01/the_trouble_with_trust.html )

    and more recently:

    "The only reliable, durable and perpetual guarantor of independence is not profit. Nor who you know. Nor what corners you can cut. It's integrity."

    - the last line of your article in the Guardian 24/8/2011
    ( https://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/aug/24/james-murdoch-wrong-on-bbc )

    Irrespective of one's views/concerns over the deal in question, the repeated closing down of relevant blogs, removal of posts from other blogs for no discernibly good reason (particularly retrospectively on pre-moderated blogs), an apparent tactic of 'run them around in circles with auto response' complaints procedure, lack of response to thousands of comments and the apparent suppression of debate (including on-air) is fuelling the perception that the BBC is not upholding those ideals that you yourself have championed above.

    Are you not concerned that the BBC is rapidly losing the trust of hitherto loyal BBC supporters? I sincerely hope you are as concerned as I am and those words of yours were a genuine expression of intent at the BBC, but there has been very little evidence of that over the past month.

  • Comment number 18.

    I'm closing this and another post to further comments now because they've become a target for F1 protest comments. The strength of feeling on the topic is clear but that's not what this blog post is for so I won't allow the F1 topic to swamp everything else. I'll do the same for other posts if the same happens. Please keep your comments on-topic..

    Steve Bowbrick, editor, About the BBC


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