November 2009 - Regional Audience Council for BBC South East

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					     Regional Audience Council for BBC South East
                                Minutes of meeting
                           Thursday 12 November 2009
                            Spa Hotel, Tunbridge Wells

Council members present:
     Patrick Coffey
     Simon Evers
     Charlotte Friend
     Jill Hogan Chair                South East RAC
     Danny Lee
     Rod Lipscombe
     Simon Miller
     Alan Witt                       Link to BBC Radio Kent

Absent: Anne Angel, Stephen Burt, Sue French, Jo Thompson, Rosie Webb

In attendance:

BBC Trust
      Lydia Thomas Accountability Adviser, England
      John Sparrow Public Accountability Manager, East , London & SE RACs
      Mick Rawsthorne Head of Region BBC South East

1. Welcome, introductions and apologies for absence
      Jill Hogan welcomed everyone to the meeting. She introduced new members
      Charlotte Friend and Danny Lee, and Lydia Thomas, Accountability Adviser,
      England, based Birmingham.
      Apologies for absence were received from Anne Angel, Stephen Burt Sue
      French, Jo Thompson and Rosie Webb.
      She thanked members who attended the September outreach event in
      She also thanked Rod Lipscombe for taking part in selecting the region’s sports
      Unsung Hero entrant for this year’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year event.
      Rod said it had been a privilege to be involved and a very worthy candidate had
      been selected.
      Jill was sorry to announce James Bibb’s decision to resign for health reasons. This
      will also be Alan Witt’s last meeting. Jill thanked both for their valuable
      contributions to the Council’s work.

       Members raised the following burning issues for later discussion:
            • Why radio programmes can’t be downloaded from iPlayer
              •   Proposal for more foreign language films on BBC Four (after the
                  success of the recent Wallander series)

2. Minutes of meeting 18 June
      2.1 Minutes
      Copies had been distributed
      The content was agreed as a true record, with no matters arising.

3. Programme and service review
      3.1 Daytime television
      As a contribution to the current BBC Trust consultation on BBC television
      services, RACs were invited to review and discuss non-news output on BBC
      One and BBC Two, in comparison to the ITV offering, to assess whether BBC
      programmes match audience expectation and display sufficient innovation and
      This council was asked to consider afternoon programmes (1415-1800 excluding
      children’s programmes) within which individual members were assigned specific
      Members commented on Doctors, (and other original daytime drama
      Escape to the Country, Weakest Link, Eggheads, antiques and Murder She Wrote.
      Members’ individual comments:
              - ‘ Eggheads is high quality, especially compared to ITV – Goldenballs,
                   Countdown etc. It has a broad appeal.’
              - Weakest Link isn’t innovative any more, and Anne Robinson is too
              - ‘Weakest Link is an old friend.’
              - ‘Good to see original drama in the daytime – e.g. Doctors, Land Girls,
                  but otherwise the BBC is very formulaic – junk, houses, American
                  drama. But so is ITV.
              - ‘BBC Two is a bit better – but Eggheads is tedious.’
              - ‘It’s not varied or as adventurous. ITV does a chat show which is
                  more acceptable for the young.’
              - ‘It feels like a cheap afterthought, a lazy offering, but the [daytime]
                  audience has as much right to expect good quality programmes.’
              - The content tends to be a cliché.’
              - ‘It’s mainly repeats.’
              - ‘When I’m home I find the programmes very similar – and my
                  colleagues say the same. It needs to be reviewed with some fresh and
                  new ideas.’
              - ‘I feel there’s a mix for everyone. I’ve enjoyed Real Rescues recently,
                  and people in my network like Murder She Wrote, Diagnosis Murder
                  and Flog It

       Chair’s summary
       Some individual programmes were considered high quality, with one member’s
       approval of original drama in the daytime schedule and one general appreciation
       of the output, but most felt the content was formulaic and repetitive – ‘junk,
       houses and American drama’ – though few rated the ITV and Channel 4
offerings. As one member put it – ‘the daytime audience has as much right to
expect good quality programmes’.

3.2 First reaction to weekend regional bulletins
        Funds held over from the BBC Local initiative are now being used for
        additional regional content in existing television and BBC Local Radio
        services. The scheduled Saturday lunchtime and Sunday evening (10pm)
        news now include regional reports, from 7/8 November. Members were
        asked to watch and give first reactions.
Most members had seen at least one of the bulletins with regional content. Most
found the change unremarkable – as though the regional ingredient had always
been there.
        - ‘A good selection of topics for the weekend, which were repeated
            over the weekend bulletins.’
        - ‘Not very different – but well integrated [into main news]. I expected
            more, for example a review of the week

BBC response
Mick Rawsthorne noted that the Saturday midday news was seen by sports fans
switching on for Football Focus, who would not normally see regional news at this
time. The 10pm bulletin on Sunday attracts one of the highest audiences for
news in the week.

Jill asked members to continue monitoring the programme and to comment
again at the next meeting.
                                                                     Action: ALL
                                                                     Agenda item
3.3 South East Today
Members agreed at the last meeting to review the flagship regional programme in
view of recent presenter and content changes. Members’ comments:
- ‘I’m OK with the new presenters – but I felt the departure of the previous
      ones wasn’t handled well. Content seems unchanged – it’s even handed
      between Kent and Sussex.
- Content is good and balanced. I don’t like stand-up news presentation.
- ‘I regret the passing of Bev and Geoff and I detest walking about news
      presentation – it’s artificial.
- ‘The presenters do cater for the young and the style now matches the style
      and presentation of national news.’
- ‘Yes, it’s no longer “second best” for the region.
- The new presenters are more personal and the news is more relevant.
- Geoff and Bev were “cosy” and the new pair are more professional.’
- ‘I’m not aware of much adverse reaction to the departure of [the previous
      presenters] and I think change was necessary.’
- ‘At first my network were upset at the removal of the two presenters
      [because] they related well to the age-group that watches the programme.
       The show does have a fresh approach, with a greater mix of topics [from
       Sussex] as well as Kent, but I’m not sure that the age group who watch are
       heavily into Facebook and Twitter.’
BBC response
Mick Rawsthorne thanked members for their comments. He was pleased that
audience figures had increased, despite the local press campaign about the
presenter change.

Jill asked members to keep the programme under review and report to the next
                                                               Action: ALL
                                                              Agenda item

3.4 BBC Local Radio in the region
3.4.1 Local Radio Reports

Radio Kent
Alan Witt’s report on BBC Radio Kent had been circulated. He noted that the
station’s breakfast show had won the EDF Award for the best news & current
affairs show in London and the south east and for the third year, Ed Cooke won
the title of Best Local Journalist of the Year.
Because of Alan’s retirement, Sue French has agreed to act as the Council’s link
to Radio Kent.

Radio Sussex
A South RAC member who listens to this station had kindly written a report,
which was circulated.

Anne Angel has agreed to act as the council’s link to the station from now on.

3.4.2 Local radio audiences
Members were invited to offer initial thoughts about the gradual decline in the
audience for BBC Local Radio in England, despite the growing older population
and listening increases for BBC Radios 2 and 4.
- ‘Young people choose commercial stations, for music and competitions.’
- ‘Local Radio alienates me. It seems to be aimed at older generations.’
- ‘I think it’s about publicity and awareness. I listen to [local] breakfast, drive
    time and sport. I’ve extended my choice of listening.’
- [Radio Kent’s] breakfast show is different from the competition, with local
    and national news – but otherwise I like Radio2 and prefer Radio 4.’
- I’m interested in local coverage but I’m not drawn strongly to BBC local
    radio – it has a low profile and poor reception. Also I find the frequencies
    confusing, although DAB is good. And sometimes the traffic news is for the
    wrong area.
- ‘Some people have been put off by the changes [to R Kent]. Maybe [the
    decline] mirrors the decline in local papers. There are too many sources of
    information; the BBC is like the Monty Python parrot!’
- ‘Not much publicity [about the change from Southern Counties to BBC
    Sussex & Surrey] and though Radio Kent topics are mentioned in SE news
    (on TV) don’t think those for Sussex are. Also the station doesn’t seem to be
    involved in the community any more, and I’ve lost track of who the
    presenters are. Traffic reports are excellent, though.’
- ‘People under 50 think that local radio isn’t as hip or trendy as Radio 1.
           There should be more trailing on regional television and higher profile at
           events round the region.’

       BBC response
       Mick Rawsthorne detailed the Local Radio task force, of which he is a member,
       sponsored by the Deputy Director General. It is undertaking an extensive
       review of data to understand the shift in audiences.

4. Reports
      4.1 July, September and October ACE meetings
      Minutes/draft minutes had been distributed.
      Jill felt that the calibre of speakers at these three meetings indicated the
      increasing profile of ACE and its value as the genuine voice of the audience. She
      feels that input from ACE and the RACs is strong, valued and important. For
      example, presenter change at Radio 1 had been influenced by audience council

       4.1.1 Members’ comments
       One member challenged the brand distinction between BBC One and BBC Two
       that channel controllers appeared to perpetuate. Surely it’s simply ‘The BBC’?

       BBC Trust response
       John Sparrow explained that research indicated distinct expectations of the two
       main BBC television channels [as the TV services outreach indicates]. For
       example, on occasions when regular programmes, e.g. Songs Of Praise, are
       transferred from BBC One to BBC Two at the same transmission times, the
       viewer reaction is that this ‘demotes’ their programme.

       4.1.2 Members’ issues between meetings
       Jill invited members to contact her by e-mail with issues or concerns that arise
       between meetings, so that she can raise them at intervening ACE meetings if
       Members agreed that their e-mail addresses could be exchanged, to facilitate
                                                                           Action: ALL
                                      John Sparrow to distribute e-mail addresses

       4.1.3 Trustee visit
       Jill explained that Alison Hastings (BBC Trustee for England) will make every
       effort to visit this council as soon as possible.

       4.2 Half year report
       This had been distributed.
       Members approved its content.

       4.3 Head of Region’s report
       Mick Rawsthorne’s report had been circulated.
       There were no updates or questions.
5. Trust business and feedback
      5.1 Digital Britain
      The ACE submission to the BBC Trust + the Trust press release had been
      distributed for information.

      5.2 News coverage for nations and regions
      A report was distributed.
      Jill noted a higher profile for regional correspondents on network news and
      references to regional output for ‘more information’.

      5.3 TV Services Consultation (launched 25 September)
      Copies of the BBC Trust questionnaire were distributed and members asked to
      comment on the accompanying television trail.
      Some members reported seeing the trail:
      - ‘I think it’s informative.’
      - ‘The Trust has a profile through negative publicity.’
      - ‘There’s not much awareness of the Trust among my network.’
      - ‘I think the questionnaire is long.’
      Jill thanked members for their comments and noted that a communications
      strategy for ACE was being sought.

6. Outreach
      6.1 Generally Accepted Standards (now Taste and Standards)
      (May outreach in Tunbridge Wells)
      The ACE submission to the BBC Trust had been distributed.

      6.2 Television services outreach (Romany community, Maidstone, September)
      Six members met 15 people from the Sittingbourne Romany community
      Members’ comments:
      - ‘My preconceptions were blown away.’
      - ‘I learned a lot.’
      - ‘I was impressed with their sense of society, and discipline.’

      Responding to Jill’s enquiry about facilitating skills, some members felt competent
      through their professional work, but all agreed that informal training would be
      valuable.                                            Action: Accountability team

7. Burning issues
      7.1 Why radio programmes can’t be downloaded from iPlayer

                                                                      PAM to enquire

      7.2 Proposal for more foreign language films on BBC Four (after the success of
       the recent Wallander series)                            PAM to ask CBBC4

      7.3 Disparity in coverage of American and European news:
      Perceived greater emphasis on America than Europe: American news tends to
      be domestic; dollars not converted into pounds;
                                                       PAM to discuss with News
8. Any other business
      8.1 Meeting dates 2010
      The dates, times, and venues where known were distributed.
      Members seemed content with the later start time of this meeting. The change
      had been introduced to enable people with daytime commitments to participate
      without taking time off.

       8.2 Continued monitoring of travel information on BBC Local Radio
       Jill asked members to note the timeliness and accuracy of travel news in
       preparation for the next meeting, to assess whether there has been
       improvement since July 2009.
                                                                          Action: ALL

       8.3 Extra funding for children’s services
       Jill highlighted this as another example of ACE impact, after RAC discussions and
       outreach on children’s services.

       8.4 Members’ comments
       8.4.1 The over-use of social networking – e.g Twitter by Fearne Cotton
       8.4.2 The break in continuity when sports coverage is transferred to the Red

       8.5 New member recruitment
       Jill noted that the recruitment round will begin in January 2010. She sought
       members’ help in identifying people from their networks who might be
       interested in joining.

       8.6 Farewell
       Jill thanked John Sparrow for his work for the council and wished him well.

9. Date, time and place of next meeting:
      Thursday 14 January 2010 Spa Hotel Tunbridge Wells, 6pm for 6.15-8.15pm

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