REGIONAL AUDIENCE COUNCIL BBC SOUTH EAST
Spa Hotel, Tunbridge Wells
Thursday 8 January 2009
PRESENT: James Bibb Local Radio Link SCR Acting RAC Chair
Alan Witt Local Radio Link Radio Kent
BBC Mick Rawsthorne Head of Region, South East
Laura Truscott Public Accountability Manager
Frances Bryant Accountability Adviser
Apologies: Apologies had been received from Jill Hogan, Natasha Shepherd, Margaret
Swan and Jo Thompson. Ameeta Sandilands has sent in her resignation and wishes everyone
1. WELCOME AND INTRODUCTIONS
James Bibb welcomed members to the meeting.
2. MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING AND MATTERS ARISING
The action points were all completed. Section 3 BBC Learning do not have any plans
to role out the Headroom campaign into schools. Section 4 Mick Rawsthorne had
checked the log for sound problems and nothing had been reported. The minutes
were agreed as being a true record.
3. PROGRAMME & SERVICE LICENCE REVIEW
Review of Beautiful People
Overall members were spilt in their views. Some thought the programme was pure
entertainment and wasn’t trying to fit into the public purposes it was just good fun.
Others felt that it was predictable and the writing left them cold. Members did think
the acting of the young boys was very good and liked the lack of canned laughter
Members thought the series would appeal to late teens to early 30s. Comparisons
were made to Adrian Mole.
Is Comedy alive & well?
Overall the comedies available over Christmas were good but members felt that it
was time to move on from television shows like Morcombe & Wise and the usual
round of Christmas Specials eg. The Royle Family. Members loved the online content
especially Comedy Shuffle and Comedy Soup. Members thought that the online pages
would appeal to a younger audience, particularly the games. Outnumbered was highly
praised and the making of the programme (which is available in the DVD box set)
should be shown as it shows the filming of the series and how it allows the children
to improvise their characters.
Members don’t look for the public purposes within comedy, they prefer to “switch
off” and be entertained for half an hour.
Local Radio Reports
The output from Radio Kent over the last few months has been outstanding. The
gardening programme attracts listeners from a wide area, including overseas.
There was concern over the amount of international news within the drivetime
programme compared to local news. Mick Rawsthorne responded that radio was
different to television in that South East Today has no international stories but radio
is more of a “one stop shop” for listeners. There needs to be a balance of local,
national and international stories and it is important to cover the whole news agenda
in the Drivetime programme.
Some members are unable to pick up digital radio. Mick Rawsthorne responded that
this is due to holes in the multiplex map and currently listeners would still have to
tune in via the FM frequency.
Southern Counties Radio
The afternoon show is aimed at middle aged women and sometimes male listeners
feel left out. Mick Rawsthorne responded that Woman’s Hour on R4 although aimed
at women has a large male following; however it wasn’t the intention to offend the
male listening audience.
The schedule online isn’t always updated especially if there is a stand-in presenter.
Mick Rawsthorne said that it is often hard to keep up to date as there are often late
changes due to sickness.
Live local, love local is a really good strap line and a true reflection of the station.
The local radio link representatives asked other members again to send them their
opinions as it is very hard to give a balanced view if they receive no other feedback.
Members need to try and talk to their networks of friends and colleagues and ask
them for feedback.
4. CHAIR’S REPORT
Laura Truscott highlighted the following – David Holdsworth, newly appointed
Controller English Regions, attended the meeting and expressed his disappointment
with the Trust’s provisional conclusions to Local Video. The English Regions are
now bidding for the money which remains with the Trust; he highlighted four area he
was considering - extension of wee-end bulletins; investing in a political reporter for
Local Radio stations; widen the genres of programmes – non-news (culture, history,
nature) as an alternative to Inside Out; targeted geographical investment – Local Radio
for Cheshire, Dorset; areas without local websites; full TV services for Oxford and
Ongoing concern was expressed about the continuation of Regional Sports Awards;
The South East didn’t have an awards ceremony though they still ran the “Unsung
Hero” award. A decision is still to be made at national level on the future of this
What is local?
David Holdsworth had asked ACE members to ask their councils to discuss “what
was local?” Members felt that local is something that directly affects them; generally
it is within a twenty mile radius of where they live. Local is on their doorstep and is
only of interest to that community. Regional is of interest to more than one
Members would love the BBC to talk about where they live but know it can’t and on
balance feels the BBC gets it right. They like the mix of local and regional stories.
Members refer to South East Today as their local news but know it is their regional
Members wouldn’t want the South East area to be any larger; they think Meridian’s
area is too large and stories often have no relevance to them.
Head of Region’s Report
Mick Rawsthorne highlighted the following from his report; the radical partnership
proposals with other broadcasters are ongoing, the Ofcom consultation is due to end
in January. Regional news needs competition.
South East Today saw a slight decline in November; despite this ITV was still over 15
percentage points behind. South East Today is still the third highest performer in the
Inside Out’s reach has risen 12.4%, average reach only beaten by South West with a
reach of 12.9%. The Politics Show, produced by a new independent, completed its
first autumn run. The improved production & journalism seem to be reflected in the
preliminary viewing figures.
South East Today has a new business correspondent, Richard Smith, in addition to
the home affairs, environment and social affair correspondents.
A member asked Mick Rawsthorne who decides what is filmed when a journalist is
deployed,. They feel that often the journalist over dramatises or simplifies the story
too much. Mick responded that it depends on the story; a discussion may have taken
place beforehand or the journalist decides when they arrive on site.
Accountability Review – Frances Bryant told members about the findings from the
accountability review. Consultants had spoken to James Bibb, Margaret Swan, Jill
Hogan and David Claridge. The final report was discussed at the ACE December
The strengths of the RACs are the diversity of membership, the robustness of
discussions and the “real people” who make up the network of contacts. These
networks are important as the other councils within the nations are largely made up
The main weakness is the lack of clarity between the RACs, ACE and the Trust.
The proposal is to take the strengths and make ACE more strategic. The RACs will
be as now but there will be less Trust consultation. There will be less paperwork
but more emphasis on outreach. The expertise within the councils will be used
dependent on the reviews or consultations e.g. PSB review.
The agendas would be clearer, to enable longer discussions on programmes for
example. There will be fewer meetings but the extra dates will be used for outreach
i.e. four meetings & two outreach.
ACE could increase the number of meetings, this is still in discussion. If it happens a
formal deputy would be in place at the RAC meetings.
Members who had taken part in the review thought it was a useful exercise and it
was good to be a part of the process. They thought outreach was really important
but would like more notice of the events. Frances Bryant responded events were
planned in advance but it was hard to plan too far in advance as the events often
relied on a third party and that the councils needed to fit in with.
5. TRUST BUSINESS AND FEEDBACK
James Bibb thanked Alan Witt, Simon Miller, Natasha Sheppard and Margaret Swan
for helping out with the review of network news as part of the impartiality review.
All responses to be returned on Monday 12 January 2009.
Members watched the DVD created for the Trust on Younger Audiences.
7. BURNING ISSUES / ANY OTHER BUSINESS
New members will be confirmed at the appointments panel in February.
8. DATE OF NEXT MEETING 19 February 2009
Spa Hotel, Tunbridge Wells
9. Programmes for review
BBC Radio Kent
Panorama – BBC 1, 26 January – Generally Accepted Standards
[We aim to make as much of the minutes available as possible. However, there will
be times when sections of the minutes will be withheld from publication. These will be
kept to a minimum and clearly marked.
The reasons for withholding information are consistent with the Freedom of
Information Act which applies to some of the BBC’s information. See
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