The BBC's governors have hit back at the Government's independent review of the corporation's digital channels. The review, conducted by London Business School's Patrick Barwise, said that while BBC Three, BBC Four, CBeebies and CBBC had all largely met their remits, BBC Three and BBC Four were providing poor value for money due to low viewing figures.
He urged the BBC to make BBC Three and BBC Four more mainstream by ending Three's "obsession" with young adult programming, and ending Four's airing of "arts and other programmes which virtually no-one watches".
Responding to culture secretary Tessa Jowell, the governors said the BBC's new channels needed to be given time to develop and build audiences before radical changes were made. While agreeing with Barwise that Three and Four needed to increase reach and value for money, they made it clear they did not share his view that the channels should become more mainstream.
Instead, the governors want the BBC's programme makers and channel chiefs to make the channels more distinctive by taking risks and innovating.
The governors welcomed the review of its digital radio operation, conducted by former Channel 4 director of programmes Tim Gardam. Gardam hailed the BBC's expansion into digital radio a success, and said 1Xtra, Five Live Sports Extra, 6 Music, BBC 7, and the Asian Network had all met the terms of their approvals.
BBC chairman Michael Grade said: "The Barwise and Gardam reviews of the BBC's digital radio and television services are a valuable contribution to the work the governors will be doing over the next 12 months as the BBC makes its case for a new Charter. There is much in both reports that the governors endorse and we have already implemented some of the recommendations.
"The governors are firmly committed to ensuring each of the BBC's services delivers the best value to licence payers and we will continue to monitor the progress of our digital services in the year ahead."
Jana Bennett, director of television, said: "All four digital channels have achieved creative break-through during their infancy and I am delighted this is recognised by Paddy Barwise in his report.
We support the view that it would not be in the interests of the audience to move BBC Three and BBC Four towards being more 'mainstream' channels.
"To broaden them out would be to risk the core essence of these services, when we want to build on the channels' distinctiveness to grow their reputation and audiences."
Lovelacemedia | 06.12.2004