BBC Trust publishes new promise to audiences

MUMBAI: The BBC Trust has published its new Promise to UK Audiences, making clear how it will engage with the public to hear their views, understand their expectations, and inform them of decisions taken on their behalf.

The Trust's Promise to Audiences is a formal requirement of the Royal Charter and has been drawn up in consultation with the public, who were asked how and when they’d like to hear from the Trust and what information is of most interest to them.

In addition to an open consultation – online and via a questionnaire distributed to all UK public libraries – the Trust met a range of representative bodies and carried out research amongst the public at large to develop a set of principles to underpin its engagement.

While evidence shows that very few people want to be personally involved in giving their views about Trust activities, there is strong support for the principle of public involvement, with 73 per cent agreeing the public should have a say in the running of the BBC and 95 per cent wanting the Trust to report back on its activities. Trust decisions about value for money, and particularly those linked to new BBC services and significant changes to existing services were seen as the most important for public consultation and reporting.

The consultation and research also demonstrated the Trust needs to work harder in raising awareness of its work, when it is consulting and, crucially, the impact the public makes on the Trust's final decisions.

BBC Trust Chairman Sir Michael Lyons said, "Even though we've made real progress in giving a greater voice to the public and can demonstrate its influence, we know from the public's feedback that we need to do more. The public want to know when they can get involved, but more importantly, they want to know what action has been taken by the Trust as a result, so they can assess whether it's worth their time and effort.

"We will continue to look for ways to reach and involve as many people as possible. For example, we are examining the option of trails on the BBC's own networks – similar to those about digital switchover – to highlight the opportunity to give us your opinion, or to tell you what's happened as a result.

"The Trust will always have to use its judgement not least because our large and complex audience has many different views and preferences – but we will always explain the reasons for the decisions we make and how we used the information provided by the public in reaching our decisions."

The BBC Trust says that it needs to understand all of the various groups which make up the audience – 

as such it has to carry out a wide range of public engagement. We will, however, be clear why it is carrying out this work.

It has therefore, come up with a number of principles which should underpin any engagement activity.

It wants to use methods of engagement which:

1. are ones which the public believes will work and will use.

2. will provide greater visibility for the work of the BBC Trust and, therefore, 

encourage the public to participate.

3. reach out to all members of the public, including those who might feel alienated from the BBC, while being resistant to capture by those with the loudest voices and vested interests.

4. are practical, convenient and easy for those taking part.

5. are open and transparent, including reporting the outcomes of our engagement.

 6. do not lose sight of the main aim of the BBC, which is to provide quality programmes and services.

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