Regional Audience Council BBC West

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					                   Regional Audience Council BBC West
                                Monday 11th February 2008

                                     BBC Broadcasting House
                                            Bristol
                                           Minutes

         Members present: Stuart Paterson (acting chair), Dr Abbe Hayward, Dr Michael
         Natarajan, Sir Peter Wallis, Mark Patterson, Brian Warwick, Jenn Gollings, Rhian
         Denham, Emily Loveday, Doreen Baidoo, Stephen Warden.
         BBC Staff: Lucio Mesquita, Head of Regional and Local Programmes (West), Bob
         Lloyd-Smith (Accountability Manager, BBC English Regions)
         Apologies: Mary-Elizabeth Raw, Jonathan Charlesworth, Nigel Galling, Gary
         Stephens.
         Not present: Alan Calaminus

1.       Welcome and introductions.
         This would have been the last meeting for Nigel Galling (link with BBC
         Gloucestershire) and Gary Stephens (link with BBC Bristol).

2.       The previous meeting.
         The December meeting was more of a briefing about current BBC issues and meeting
         of staff. The programme review on Drop Dead Gorgeous and Radio Five Live had been
         done and submitted to the Audience Council England and were tabled for information.
         Members would be asked to take part in a BBC Trust consultation about BBC
         Impartiality; the results were shared at this meeting. Members were briefed by
         management on re-prioritisation plans, MyLocalNow (BBC Local), listener and viewer
         trust in the BBC and the new 8.00pm short news bulletin, the first live edition was
         seen by members that night.

3.       Programme & Service Review
         Members were asked in advance to bring their thoughts about how their BBC Local
         Radio Service had performed during the year.
     •   One member, who had a blind father, said Radio Bristol was on all of the time
         [Withheld from published minutes under section 36 of the Act.]
     •   The travel news was praised by many members, it was regular and you knew when to
         expect it. Some members said for the news itself they would rather rely on the
         television.
     •   One member said that when the Radio Bristol/BBC Somerset frequency changed she
         had listened to BBC Somerset and found it softer and easier to listen to.




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•   A regular listener to Radio Bristol said years ago she had found the radio station
    generally condescending and unattractive but since the new manager had taken over
    the overall sound was much better. She had sampled the early hours output which was
    designed for new music, local bands and specialist music in one hour slots. One
    member described this output as very energetic and the presenters were clearly
    geared to a younger audience but she felt a lot of the music was actually geared at an
    older audience which she found confusing.
•   Another member felt there was a similar situation at BBC Wiltshire, but, he said, it
    made him feel young.
•   Another member from Wiltshire said he thought one of the problems about
    broadcasting a radio station to an essentially adult 45+ audience was that most of the
    staff were simply too young to appreciate what older people really felt and he found it
    difficult to relate to their views. He had spoken to some of the young reporters and
    producers and was told they got their appreciation of an older audience from their
    parents. He felt this was wholly wrong and condescending.
•   On a similar point the same member said he had seen the BBC Wiltshire outside
    broadcast vehicle in the middle of one of the county towns, which was great, but it
    was clear the audience wanted to talk to older staff.
•   One member said she was forced to listen to one of the Somerset commercial
    stations at work which she described as totally banal and had put her off local radio
    altogether - she listened to Radio Four.
•   One of the new members said he used to listen to his BBC Local Station in Wiltshire
    years ago but had been turned off by the irritating presenter, he has recently returned
    to the station and was pleasantly surprised.
•   A Bristol member described herself as right in the middle of the BBC local radio
    demographic but found the music totally unsuitable for her taste and she questioned
    how the music policy was decided.
•   Another member said that this debate has inspired him to listen to BBC Somerset on
    its new FM frequency.
    A few members said they were pleased that Radio Bristol had a new phone-in
    presenter and hoped that it would inspire new and fresh callers. [Withheld from
    published minutes under section 36 of the Act.]
•   A member from Gloucestershire said the maximum time she could listen to BBC local
    Radio was about ten minutes.
•   Many members agreed that the websites associated with the radio stations were
    excellent, especially being able to see what the presenters looked like.
•   Another member said that when she swapped from Radio Four to local radio she felt
    there should be no drop in quality, they were both BBC products.
•   Most members seemed to agree with the member who made no secret of the fact
    that he listened to many different radio stations, all of which he enjoyed, but it was
    dependant on his mood as to which one he listened to. He praised the choices on
    offer.
•   The Chairman thought that BBC Somerset’s move to FM would increase audience
    simply because it was now easier to find on the dial.
•   Several members spoke of their irritation, particularly but not exclusively in the car,
    when their radios kept flicking from one channel to another. One member described
    it as infuriating.



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BBC response: The head of region said it was a well publicised policy that BBC Local Radio
was trying to hit a 45+ audience, up against Radio Two in demographic but offering something
completely different. Admittedly some of the staff were fresh to the business but it was his
firm belief that there should not be an “obsession” to get an older audience. He was trying to
provide radio for the curious, with an interest in local issues with a very firm assurance that
the service would provide sharp and balanced journalism. Local Radio is designed for a
specific audience and could not be all things to all people. If in depth international news was
what you wanted you should go elsewhere. It is our duty to offer something different. You
will find teenager music on Radio One, Drama on Radio Four and classical music on Radio
Three, we have to offer something different, and cost per hour we are very cheap! The head
of region said he would report back with a detailed account of how the music was sampled
for local radio. He went on to say that he would not expect a drop in quality in standards
between network radio and local radio. The problem with radios hopping channels, especially
in the car, was something he could do little about. The transmitter footprints were
established many years ago and, in Wiltshire in particular, there were many different
transmitters which were affected by Salisbury Plain and the military activity. It was possible to
lock most car radios to stop them selecting channels but the equipment was designed to lock
onto the strongest signal especially when travel news was being offered.
Chair’s summary:
It was agreed that local radio had achieved an enormous amount of excellent broadcasting in
the previous year on increasingly tight budgets. There had been well documented
disappointment that Somerset was not, after all, to get its own radio station but the fact it
now had its own FM transmitter was excellent news even it if had caused some initial
confusion with Radio Bristol listeners who used to use that frequency. The change of phone-
in presenter on Radio Bristol had not been widely welcomed, [Withheld from published minutes
under section 36 of the Act.]
 Even though the RAC link member with BBC Gloucestershire was not present it should not
go un-noted that the radio station had done a spectacular job in covering the summer floods.
There was curiosity about the music policy with some, deemed to be in the middle of the
target demographic not engaging with the music at all. Local radio could not be all things to all
listeners as many other services were available for different tastes of changes of mood. So
long as local radio continued to reflect life in the community in an accurate, balanced and fair
way it would continue to have its place on the dial. It had been accepted that many local radio
staff were well below the demographic they were broadcasting to and this should be carefully
monitored. If the radio station is aiming at a mature age it must offer a mature product.
Fulfilling the Public Purposes:
Sustaining citizenship and civil society: Local community information helped keep
communities together. It was an essential public service especially in times of civil crisis. This
was the key to the output. Members felt that the rest of the output was mixed but hit the
purpose reasonably well.
Representing the UK’s nations, regions and communities
There have been many fine examples of where this has worked well. Major national issues are
given a forum for local comment and interpretation. In a nutshell local radio is there to reflect
life in the community, whether it reflects life in the whole community is debatable. There was
a consensus that local radio gives the impression of being urban biased. For example even the
countywide service for Wiltshire seemed to have a Swindon bias, according to one member.



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There were similar comments about Bristol and Somerset. There was no-one at the meeting
who could really speak on behalf of Gloucestershire.
Stimulating creativity and cultural excellence
Local Radio always has been the seedbed of local talent; it’s where reporters and producers
learn the tricks of the trade. The buses and open centres, sadly to be lost, gave the
community the chance to see from the inside how stories were told. Citizen Journalism was
made for local radio allowing non-broadcasters the chance to have a go. Somerset provided
short stories from listeners, in the early hours Radio Bristol gives new bands and new talent a
chance to be heard. Many members agreed, however, that local radio did not give the
impression of stimulating cultural excellence which isn’t to say it was not being done. The
answer was probably to promote it more in mainstream programmes.
Promoting education and learning
A great example was the Somerset bus going to Wellington which actively helped children
learn. It was pointed out again that the local radio buses were excellent tools to get out into
communities and their loss was sad, although Somerset seemed to be holding tight to their
vehicle.
Bringing the UK to the world and the world to the UK
There were examples of where local radio had helped highlight the plight of stricken
countries and many of the radio stations had very strong ties with families who had loved
ones in Iraq or Afghanistan. So certainly parts of the world were being brought close to home
in the UK, perhaps the UK to the world was not so strong. Members accepted this was a
difficult purpose to fulfil but greatly admired the aspirations to try.
Emerging communications
BBC Somerset moving from AM to FM was a clear example, there was a frustrating effort to
try to get local radio onto the digital spectrum, the recent closure of some digital commercial
channels was worrying but was probably down to the lack of advertising revenue from what
was still a relatively new technology. It was interesting that most of the RAC had access to
digital radio as they were still quite expensive in the shops. The listen again service seemed to
be used by most members on the web, and it was hoped that more emerging technology
would help penetrate local communities.

4.      Head of Regional and Local Programmes.
Lucio’s report had been circulated in advance to members. In accepting that viewing figures
sometimes had a habit of fluctuating up and down he was, none the less, pleased to point out
that the Region’s Points West was currently the most watched evening news programme in
the country. BBC Gloucestershire’s figures were up, BBC Wiltshire had recently had a quite
radical change in programming which is hoped would be reflected in future figures, BBC Radio
Bristol had also gone through many changes and the listeners were clearly settling down. The
frequency changes will have an effect and BBC Somerset will, in the future, be measured in
the same way as other radio stations now that it is on FM. It was noted that Somerset’s chief
reporter, Clinton Rogers, had been judged the best in the RTS Regional Awards and the
council were unanimous in their praise for his style and presentation. There followed a
discussion repeating earlier comments about the initial confusion caused by BBC Somerset
taking over one of Radio Bristol’s FM transmitters. The rest of Lucio’s report covered
extensively how the region had operated within the headings of Reach, Impact, Quality
and Value for money.




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5. Chair’s report:
The draft minutes of the Audience Council England meeting in January in Windsor had been
circulated to members. Members were also given their regional feedback to the Trust’s BBC
Impartiality Review and a detailed report from the West’s outreach event report which
investigated the media habits of 16-22 year olds.
The ACE meeting included a gathering of members of the other three National Councils. The
Chair said it was clear that other nations worked in a very different way from England, for
example none of the others has a regional council structure. It highlighted the importance of
ACE reflecting the whole nation.
There was also a debate about finding ways of maximising council activity, regional councils
need to make their mark by getting out and really reflecting life in our region. There would be
an ACE report at the next meeting.
There was a debate about the RAC improving links with local radio. This was particularly
important as the West is losing its link member with Gloucestershire and Bristol at the same
time. It was agreed that during the year the Council should invite the various radio editors in
the region to RAC meetings. Details of RAC/Radio links at the next meeting.
The new 8.00pm TV news summary was discussed. Not all members of ACE welcomed the
bulletin, some, for example, thought it was too tabloid. Many felt it served an important
purpose. Some thought it was a bit tabloid but in a ‘nice’ way. Another member felt it would
serve a far better purpose if it were a full two full minutes of regional news.
The Chair had been involved in the Trust’s consultation on the BBC’s complaints procedure.
The overall aim was to speed up the way the BBC deals with complaints. One regional
member in supporting the idea said it would be wrong to raise expectations too high.

 6      Annual Report 07-08
It was time for the ACE annual report to be submitted. ACE will be given an overall summary
by the chair but RAC members needed to input as well. One key area for discussion was the
the RAC’s priorities for the coming year. After much discussion:
     • Increase the balance of reporting the ethnic minorities in the region…not just Bristol.
         There was a significant increase in the Polish community, for example, which was
         largely unreported.
     • The coverage of disability and the elderly should be looked at. It was a growing
         socially important issue which the BBC could not ignore.
     • Business and Sport. What was it that listeners and viewers really want? Both subjects
         touched the lives of most families in the region.
     • More local news. Was there some way of getting more local TV news, maybe an
         extension to the 10.30. BBC Local will help with this but for the time being
         traditional TV had the authority.
     • Urban v Rural coverage. Too much seemed to centre on the major cities. What does
         the rural audience want?

        7.     Outreach
Members had been circulated with the report and statistics from the November outreach
event involving the younger audience. The members that had taken part thought the event
was worthwhile and enlightening. The trick now was to take the information from the West
and around the country and listen to what the young people were saying. For example there
seemed to be an attraction to Channel Four for “daring to be different”. The BBC should not



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mimic Channel Four but offer the kinds of programmes that Channel Four did which were
attractive to the younger audience.
The new outreach project was discussed at length (family entertainment) and it took some
time for the RAC to establish what the ACE really wanted as an outcome to the project. It
was thought right to keep the project within the RAC and a couple of members offered to
take part with others agreeing to be facilitators.

8.       Any other business
     •   Farewell to retiring members. Two members, neither of whom were able to be
         present, were leaving the council. One was the RAC’s link with BBC Gloucestershire
         and the other was the link with BBC Bristol. The Chair informed members that more
         importance was to be put on the RAC’s links with local radio. There was to be a
         recruitment event the following week and it was hoped the problem could be
         satisfactorily resolved.

9.       Date of next meeting: April 7th 2008. Programmes for Review:
         • Service Reviews on CBBC and CBeebies
         • Two programmes from the BBC White Season including White Girl
         • Any comment on BBC West Regional Output. TV, Radio or On-line.
                                                        Public Accountability Manager, Bob Lloyd-Smith 07768 648780

Endnote

[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 www.bbc.co.uk/foi for further explanation.]




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