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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


  • Comment number 1.

    'in many ways, just as good for you'

    What if you find it indigestible or perhaps simply no longer is to taste?

    Is there an option to be spared the cost that does not involve the often quaintly proffered solution of withdrawing from the electronic age if, somewhat uniquely on a democratic country basis, in the UK?

    We are of course not talking an essential service here, like health or defence, but the provision of entertainment and (carefully structured) 'information' only.


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