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Peter Salmon Peter Salmon | 14:14 UK time, Tuesday, 29 November 2011

In the age of twenty-four hour breaking news this phrase might belong to a bygone era, but it's crossed my mind more than a few times in the past few weeks.

Not only have we said our final and historic farewell to Oxford Road - the BBC2 special TV Greats - Our Favourites From The North - paid it a fine tribute at the weekend - but we have also begun to usher in a new era of journalism from these parts at MediaCityUK. 

So it seemed timely that CBBC's Newsround arrival in Salford should be honoured by the television industry with a Special Award at the weekend's Children's BAFTAs.

It really is worth singling out Newsround's role in more detail. For the last four decades Newsround has been the only constant news provider for children. Starting with the legendary John Craven, and followed by the likes of Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Kate Sanderson and Matthew Price, the programme has become a national institution, successfully helping generations of children to learn more about, and crucially come to terms with, the world around them.

  Today's presenters - Ore Oduba, Ricky Boleto, Leah Gooding and Hayley Cutts - continue this fine tradition. As well as the lighter side of news - from the latest technological developments to entertainment news - the programme has covered the most momentous and tragic events of the past 40 years. From the famines that inspired Band Aid, the events of 9/11 and 7/7, the tsunamis that ravaged the Far East to today's global recession, Newsround has delivered daily bulletins that have guided the audience through often incredibly complex issues with great clarity, balancing high quality journalism with sensitivity. And the programme's award-winning specials have covered everything from it's recent piece on autism to bullying and alcoholism, bringing a deeper perspective to stories that all too often impact directly on the audiences' own lives. 

In today's world of instant and continuous global news, Newsround provides a safe harbour for children to learn the facts behind often sensationalised headlines and it's hard not to believe that it makes a real difference in their lives. In fact, I'm in no doubt that since that first programme over forty years ago it has kicked started and inspired the careers of more than a few journalists beyond its own past presenters. 

Another example of the BBC's high standard of journalism is to be found in our regional programmes and just yesterday the BBC's North West regional news programmes became the latest slice of news to begin broadcasting live from Salford Quays and I was one of the first guests to join Ranvir and Roger on the sofa for North West Tonight in the evening. I felt very honoured as I mumbled a few answers about our new venture.

  Our regional news teams, those journalists who work on our North West programmes as well as their colleagues in BBC Radio Manchester, have been the cornerstone of journalism across the region for decades. From the tragedies of Hillsborough and the Jamie Bulger case through to the recent riots that rocked Salford and Manchester, from the Commonwealth Games in 2002 to Manchester United's success in the triple, they have not only covered the major stories from across the region in depth and with outstanding and award-winning journalism but also given a voice to local communities.

Last week has also seen the final pieces of the Radio 5 live jigsaw fall into place. The arrival of the Breakfast show with Nicky Campbell and Rachel Burden, Fighting Talk with Colin Murray and football phone-in 606 marked the moment when Radio 5 live became the first national radio network to broadcast its entire output from beyond London.

  And over the tough weekend, given the sad loss of a close colleague and friend in Gary Speed, our teams performed strongly.

But as we begin to establish a new base for BBC journalism here on Salford Quays we also have to face the challenge of making savings and finding new efficiencies across the whole organisation. These measures will have an impact on our local radio and television colleagues across both the region and the whole of the UK but these are challenging times for everyone in the public sector not just the BBC. Inevitably there will be changes and cuts in some areas, but our commitment to reinvestment means that we will continue to safeguard and champion local journalism for the long-term, and keep the BBC firmly embedded in the communities that it has always represented. And as Mark Thompson said only last week, we continue to listen to the concerns of our audience and they still have the opportunity to have their say as part of the consultation process on Delivering Quality First.

  We are also playing our part in supporting and landing  some massive events in the North. Following the huge success of Children In Need Rocks, we are now planning another warm welcome for two of the biggest events in the BBC's calendar. On 13 December we launch Celebrate Sport where some of the BBC's best sports brands come together in a two-week festival of events that will culminate in Sports Personality Of The Year. And on 17 December, Strictly Come Dancing will trip the light fantastic with its final at the Tower Ballroom in Blackpool.

    In the manner of the best news bulletins, it seems appropriate to end with "and finally" and news about some wonderful collaboration here involving the brilliant BBC Philharmonic. Last week the BBC announced its extensive contribution to and support of the Cultural Olympiad next year. It's hard to believe how close the 2012 Olympics suddenly feel and that reality is brought a little closer to home as the BBC Philharmonic is the orchestra that will be performing with Elbow when they record their 2012 BBC Olympics signature track here in the studios at Salford Quays. It's been a fantastic year for our orchestra and this is just the icing on the cake in a year when they will have worked with everyone from Radio One Xtra to the Manchester United Community Choir, Mayo and Kermode to Morning Worship - and finally Elbow and BBC Sport.

When I was a young journalist, with my first ever BBC contract working at Oxford Road on R4's superb File on 4, if you'd told me I would have been writing this article about the above events from our new  digital home in Salford Quays, I'd have said we've taken a trip way beyond journalism into the realms of fantasy and fiction. 

It's been that kind of year...

BBC Radio 1's Hackney Weekend 2012 Workshops: Working with audiences to shape events

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Jon Jacob Jon Jacob | 12:18 UK time, Thursday, 24 November 2011

Tim Westwood and schoolchildren in Hackney

Ade Adeluwoye is Senior Audience Planner for London 2012 at the BBC. He reports for the About the BBC blog about BBC Radio 1's Hackney Weekend workshops.

I would have been nervous walking into a meeting with around 50 young people at the Grace Centre in Hackney, but armed with Tim Westwood as my guest speaker I was looking forward to the day.

Our purpose was to meet some young Londoners and get them to generate ideas for BBC Radio 1's Hackney Weekend next summer. As part of the London 2012 Festival, the Hackney Weekend is possibly the most ambitious live music event in the station's history.

It will be more than double the size of other Radio 1 Big Weekend events with a crowd of 100,000 expected over two days and this will be the first time it is being held in London.

Hackney is a young, diverse and creative London borough. Over a third of residents are under 25, there are over 100 different languages spoken in the borough and Italian Vogue recently proclaimed Dalston (in Hackney) as the coolest place in the UK. However recent research by The Work Foundation also indicated that Hackney is in the highest bracket in London with over 20% of young people being classified as NEETS (under-25s who are not in education, work or training).

With this in mind, BBC Marketing & Audiences wanted to approach the workshop in a different way and opted to create a direct dialogue with these young (16-24) audiences. In partnership with Hackney Council we constructed a consultation and audience planning workshop. This was designed to boost audience engagement with BBC content and programmes through involving these audiences in the creative development of the event itself.

Ideas generated by our young collaborators ranged from joint volunteering schemes to promoting local art that showcases the issues of young people in 2012. There was scepticism among some that while the Olympic Games are coming to their part of London they found it hard to see how it would affect their lives. However Jason Carter, Radio 1 and 1Xtra Event Director has said that we don't want to just deliver a concert, we want to have a lasting effect on Hackney after the event.

Participants in a Radio 1 outreach event.

After a pep talk by Tim Westwood and nearly 30 minutes of photographs and autographs, we started the workshop. A Q&A followed which included a fun discussion about how Hackney and the BBC would compare if they were people. One participant summed up the London borough as 'cool and eclectic' and BBC Radio 1 as 'stylish, knowledgeable, but a bit more ... vintage.'

Numerous audience insights were gained into this audience and this part of London and many brilliant ideas generated. One interesting idea was to set up a BBC Radio 1 Academy where workshops and sessions on a range of subjects including business and career development could be provided for school leavers in the area.

Kim, 17, a former Hackney Youth parliament member said,

"I feel what we say will have an impact, as the event is for young people and they need our views. It was good of the BBC to have Tim Westwood come along too as he's a legend and a huge attraction for young people here."

As an Audience Planner at the BBC, I think it's imperative that we continue to find innovative ways to interact with our audience and create content that resonates with them.

Updating the BBC Complaints website

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Keith Jones Keith Jones | 14:38 UK time, Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Editors note: The new BBC Complaints website is now live. You can see it at bbc.co.uk/complaints/

Every year, the BBC receives around 1 million comments, appreciations, complaints and enquiries via the Audience Services team.

It's our job in Audience Services to ensure that every comment and complaint is normally shared in full the next morning with BBC staff, and overnight we compile and circulate a report of the day's audience feedback. This is how we make sure that each viewer and listener can tell the BBC directly what they think of our programmes and standards. No wonder then that this is one of the most widely read reports in the BBC - your reaction is invaluable to producers and managers, and is discussed across the BBC.

The rise of social media and more widespread publicity about the BBC has probably fuelled its popularity. The site has made it easier for you to contact us, and the result is that since 2008 the number of complaints has doubled to around 240,000 every year.

Each complaint we receive must be logged, classified, reported overnight and if necessary replied to. And although it is an enormous task, we send most replies within around 2 weeks. But to achieve this efficiently and still use your licence fee sensibly, we need technology tailored to our needs, as well as people to process, handle and reply to your comments.

Which is why, after some 6 years, the Complaints website is changing. The new site will be launching shortly, part of a wider updating of the BBC's corporate websites that started with the launch of the new BBC Media Centre site last month.

The new BBC Complaints site looks different, and uses a simpler design which we have tested with audiences, including their extensive feedback in the design process. The site will feature more editorial updates and links when there is a relevant report, statement or finding that has been issued by the BBC. It will link you directly to Radio 4's "Feedback" or "BBC Newswatch" programmes, so you can catch up with these when they are on.

The site also uses technology more efficiently, and our webform has been redesigned so that you fill in the information needed to help report and classify your complaint efficiently and get it to the right people overnight. It explains in more detail, as you complete it, why we need the details we request about your complaint.

If you need to use the new BBC Complaints site, we hope you'll still find it easy to use, even if it looks rather different. But above all of course, we hope you enjoy our programmes and really won't feel the need to complain...

Keith Jones, Audience Services

The BBC - it's a bit like an apple

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John Tate John Tate | 08:30 UK time, Friday, 18 November 2011

Every quarter I review the BBC's overall performance and, for this year's third quarter, an especially strong picture emerged that reminded me of just what an extraordinary organisation the BBC is.

Take the website that you're probably reading this on - the BBC's. It's the only UK site consistently in the nation's top-ten favourites, with 20 million people using it every week. Across our other platforms, 86% of the nation switch on a BBC TV channel every week; 67% tune into a BBC radio station; and BBC iPlayer has 154 million requests per month. That reach adds up to 96% of the UK population, with the average person in the UK spending eighteen-and-a-half hours with the BBC - not in a year or even in a month, but each week.

Underpinning these high ratings is the BBC's ability to make the good popular and the popular good. On this measure, we're experiencing some record results when asking our audiences for their views on quality, through the Appreciation Index (AI). Average AI scores for BBC TV programmes reached their highest ever level of 83 in 2011, a steady increase from 78 in 2007 and 75 in 2005. Frozen Planet just recorded one of our highest ever AI's at 94.

BBC News continues to perform particularly well. It produces 27% of TV news broadcasting but wins 72% of TV news viewing. The reach of the BBC News Channel was 10.4 million compared to Sky News' 6.4 million. Even in 'Sky homes', the BBC News Channel has a reach of 4.1 million compared to Sky News' 3.6 million. However whereas Sky's average revenue per user is £1.46 a day, the BBC's is just 40p.

Around the world BBC Global News (including the World Service) is delivering news to audiences from Somalia to Afghanistan totalling 225 million - the largest audience of any international broadcaster at less than half the cost per user of its nearest competitor. In the most dangerous part of Afghanistan, its particular value to the local people is perhaps best demonstrated by reports of requests in the rural south for the Mullahs in their mosques to adjust the evening prayer times so that they can listen to the BBC programmes.

What contributes to this success? As we can see, audiences score the BBC highly for quality, trust and impartiality. This has been reinforced by this year's figures. At 77%, the UK public's positive general impression of the BBC is at its highest level since 2002. Trust in the BBC overall is at its highest levels since current records began: 67% of the public agree they trust the BBC overall, up from 56% in 2004. Research from Ofcom shows that the BBC is also seen as the most impartial news broadcaster: 68% of the public say the BBC is impartial, compared with 51% for ITV, 50% for Channel 4/S4C, 50% for Five and 44% for Sky News.

Strong levels of trust are reflected in the fact that the nation continues to turn to the BBC when they need the latest information in times of crisis and national significance. 35 million joined the BBC to celebrate the Royal Wedding on 29 April and, during the English riots, records were set as 13.2 million watched the News Channel (more than any other rolling news outlet).

All in all 80% of the public say they are glad that the BBC exists. As the public are faced with more choice than ever, that is a fantastic achievement. All for about the price of an apple a day and, in many ways, just as good for you.

John Tate is the BBC Director of Policy & Strategy

Britain in a Day: Saturday 12 November

Jon Jacob Jon Jacob | 13:42 UK time, Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The BBC is working in partnership with Ridley Scott and director Morgan Matthews to make a special film documenting a 24 hour snapshot of the UK, entitled Britain in a Day.




Members of the public are invited to submit footage shot on Saturday 12 November via the project's YouTube channel. The film will be broadcast on BBC Two as part of the Cultural Olympiad next year, as well as being screened in cinemas across the country.

Commissioning Editor Documentaries, Charlotte Moore writes on the BBC TV blog:

With the Olympics coming to London next year, I think we have the perfect excuse to create a snapshot of Britain and show the world all the variety and intimacy of people's lives here, whether it's a nurse working in A&E in Newcastle, a farmer living in the Welsh valleys or a student studying in Edinburgh.

Read more about Britain in a Day in Charlotte's post on the BBC TV Blog

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Funny Gets Serious in Newcastle

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Peter Salmon Peter Salmon | 15:53 UK time, Monday, 7 November 2011

Steve Drayton from BBC Newcastle as part of Jesting About 2

Steve Drayton from BBC Newcastle

As I have said before, The North of England is a very funny place. Always has been. But we need to find, support and develop the next generation of BBC entertainers. That's why so much work is going on across the region with Cheryl Taylor's comedy commissioning team, who are based in Salford.

For instance, we've been doing some grass roots work in the North East. From comedians like Vic Reeves, Bob Mortimer, Ross Noble and Sarah Millican to classic shows like The Likely Lads, the North East knows how to make the nation laugh - its got a warm, dry, sly wit that is irresistible. I was reminded of this again last week when I was in Newcastle at the launch of Jesting About - Funny Gets Serious in the new comedy club, The Stand.

This is the second year that BBC North has supported this big initiative. We are working in partnership with Northern Film and Media and it is part of that wider commitment from us as well as our colleagues across the BBC to keep comedy at the heart of programme making for all audiences, particularly across the North.

This year's Jesting About will continue the search for new talent. It gives performers, writers and filmmakers access to mentoring from some of the leading lights from the comedy and entertainment industry to help them develop and hone their skills so that they can pitch comedy ideas, scripts and sketches to BBC commissioners.

At the launch last week we had the chance to catch up with some of those who took part last year. Carl Cooper, for example has been commissioned by BBC Radio 4 to make "Geordinary People" with some of those who participated last year. This is off the back of a half hour Jesting About programme made for BBC Newcastle and BBC Tees. It's been nominated for a Sony Radio Award next year and you can listen to it here. And Keith Brumpton has been commissioned by the BBC to take a comedy project to treatment stage.

We have been really privileged to have the support of some of the biggest names in comedy. Bob Mortimer signed up last year and has been a tireless supporter ever since. Bob, together with such comedic talents as Ross Noble and Ian La Frenais, have been generous giving their time and support. Bob has also given two writers from the initiative the opportunity to write sketches and questions for BBC Two's Shooting Stars, which he co-presents with Vic Reeves.

Jesting About comes hot on the heels of BBC Comedy's very first Sitcom Showcase that was supported by BBC North in Salford Quays. Six comedy pilots were performed in front of a studio audience and I was delighted when one of those pilots, Citizen Khan, was then almost immediately commissioned for BBC One. I am all the more pleased because it will be made in the MediaCityUK studios, which are fast becoming the home of a whole new slate of comedy programmes. As well as Citizen Khan, Sarah Millican will also be in the studios working on her new series for BBC Two early next year and Will Mellor arrives with his promising BBC1 sitcom In With The Flynns.

And Jesting About is just the start of a long-term commitment to investing more in programme making in the North East of England. Not only did we film BBC Children's hit drama series Tracy Beaker in the region but we have supported events like The Great North Run that bring us closer to our audience and we expect Inspector George Gently to be followed by more drama investment there for BBC One.

And just this weekend BBC Radio 3 was at The Sage with their Free Thinking Festival. The likes of Jimmy Whales, the founder of Wikipedia, William Hague, Maximo Park and Margaret Drabble came together to examine the world of ideas through talks, interviews, debates, original drama and performance. On Saturday night there was a cracking R5L/ R3 joint broadcast looking at what constitutes News in the age of Twitter and Internet gossip.

Anyway, back to the seriously funny stuff. And I don't mean CBBC's Crack-A-Joke, created by Newcastle-based digital agency Th_nk earlier this year. It's definitely worth a visit for any aspiring children's party entertainers.

If you have more than a funny bone in your elbow, we definitely want to hear from you. This year Jesting About will focus on entertainment and sitcom ideas for television and radio. The closing date for entries is Monday 28 November so click here to apply.

BBC winners at Stonewall Awards

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Tim Davie Tim Davie | 12:37 UK time, Friday, 4 November 2011

Last year, we carried out our most comprehensive piece of research into the portrayal of LGB audiences. A key finding of the research found that lesbian, gay and bisexual audiences want to see more and greater diversity within portrayal.

It's been quite a journey, but following the progress we've made this year, I was very pleased to see the BBC's success at last night's Stonewall Awards.

  • Entertainer of the Year: Jane Hazlegrove (Casualty, BBC1)
  • Broadcast of the Year: The World's Worst Place to be Gay (BBC3)
  • Journalist of the Year: Vanessa Feltz (Radio 2, Daily Express, BBC London) shared with Matthew Todd (Attitude)

Of course, the BBC has a responsibility to reflect and celebrate the diversity of British society in all the content that we make and broadcast. We've been working to improve this representation since we conducted and published the research, but these awards reinforce my belief that we are heading in the right direction.

Please join me in congratulating the winners at the BBC and across the industry.

Giving an hour to help someone onto the internet

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Mark Thompson Mark Thompson | 10:35 UK time, Thursday, 3 November 2011

Last week, I spent a really enjoyable hour helping mother-of-three Jacinta Rodrigues get online for the first time. I was doing my bit for a new BBC campaign called Give an Hour.

We launched the campaign on Breakfast News and at an event at MediaCity UK in Salford in which presenter Pam Rhodes joined 250 volunteers in encouraging internet first-timers. We have been covering the story across the BBC - particularly on local radio. You can watch a video of the launch event below.

The purpose of the campaign is to encourage all of us who use the internet regularly to help one of the 8.7 million people in the UK who have still never used it. On Sunday the clocks went back and the campaign calls on us all to give that 'extra' hour to show someone the benefits of the internet.

The BBC has a really important role to play in this. We have fantastic content on our own website which we'd like everyone to enjoy. Computing has the power to help people educate, inform and entertain themselves and this technology should be accessible to everyone. The creativity of our programme makers and the unique trust the public place in us means that we at the BBC have a special responsibility to help. Giving people the tools, skills and above all the inspiration to enter this new world is an incredibly important goal for the country which the BBC should get fully behind.

Jacinta is one of those people who just needed a helping hand to get started. She picked it all up very quickly and at the end of the hour we'd explored shopping online, flights to India and Wikipedia. For her, it was just a taster but I could see there'd be no stopping her once she got going.

It was incredibly helpful for me too. It's really important that all of us understand better what this new digital world looks like for those who have never accessed it. We need to offer all of them our support and make sure their transition is as easy and enjoyable as possible.

This is not something new to the BBC. Give an Hour is part of the BBC's ongoing commitment to Media Literacy. This latest initiative builds on the huge success of BBC Learning's First Click campaign which helped reduce the numbers of off-liners by around half a million.

I'd encourage everyone to join in. You can find a series of inspiring videos and guides on how to give your hour on our own website bbc.co.uk/giveanhour. And you can also find more practical help and even advice on finding a training centre near you at our partner website www.go-on.co.uk.

75 years of BBC TV

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Robert Seatter Robert Seatter | 09:54 UK time, Wednesday, 2 November 2011

A line of chorus girls on BBC television

On 3 November on top of a hill in North London, an American singer called Adele Dixon, with a diction far away from our contemporary chart-topping Adele, sang these words: 'A mighty maze of mystic magic rays is all about us in the blue...' The rather headily alliterative lyric was attempting its own bit of propaganda: to explain to an unsuspecting British public what TV was all about.

Of course audiences had seen films in the cinema, but this was different. It was personal! In its own grumpy corner, the press sniffed at the new arrival... The Times was particularly unimpressed, intoning that man was basically a social animal, and would not forsake the gregarious pleasures of theatre and restaurants for 'the lonely pleasures of TV at home'. How very wrong they were.

Today it is 75 years since the BBC launched the world's first continuous television service - and how foreign a world without TV would be to us now. What of its early days? Every schoolboy/girl used to know that John Logie Baird invented television. Answer: no he didn't. He invented the idea of it, as he was the most passionate of propagandists for the new medium. But in fact, in the race for television in 1936, his 'mechanical' system of television proved to be completely untenable - inflexible cameras, uncomfortable 'spotlight studios', dangerous vats of chemicals (cyanide!), and a slow system of picture delivery. No, Marcon-EMI, with their 'electronic' system - slicker, more flexible, better quality, triumphed, and even though we might have wanted the plucky mad inventor Scot to win against the moneyed forces of EMI, it was not to be.

So that was the technical side, but what was there actually to watch in the mid 1930s? Well, when you step inside the lofty but narrow studio at Alexandra Palace (open specially the weekend of 5/6 Nov this year for the anniversary!), it is quite amazing when you discover what was made there - ballet troupes, opera companies, classic dramas, variety shows and cabaret, dance bands and performing animals all squeezed their way into its limited confines. The most popular programme was a show called Picture Page, the first interactive TV experience, when viewers phoned in their requests of what they'd like to see on air - and the BBC obligingly delivered, everything from tennis stars to everyday folk with sometimes extraordinary occupations. Miles of careful cable were also threaded out of the studio to capture the first outside broadcasts: the TV gardener in situ (the famous Mr Middleton of 'Dig for Victory' fame), the latest sporting triumphs on land and water, the Coronation of the King. A pell mell of experimentation and innovation. How dull life must have become when they knew how to do it!

So don't miss the opportunity to step inside the famous studio in Alexandra Palace, where it all began. The iconic tower mast on top of its corner wing is still there, the long black box of a studio still exerts an atmospheric pull, and there'll be a 1930s dance band and tea room to get you in the mood, as well as some futuristic TV too.

As we prepare for the switch off terrestrial TV, the launch of internet-enabled TV and experiment with HD and Super hi-Viz, it is clear that TV production has developed a long way since those early days. And how fitting and salutary it is to remember some of those first BBC pioneers who paved the way for everything that was to come. Those fools on the hill.

Robert Seatter is the the Head of BBC History

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