Television

BBC to increase appeal of current affairs programming in the UK

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MUMBAI: UK pubcaster the BBC has announced a package of measures to increase the prominence and appeal of current affairs programming on BBC One. This will include an increased investment and extra hours in peak time. This represents the highest number of hours of peaktime current affairs on BBC ONE on record.

The decision, signalled in Building Public Value, was made jointly by BBC Television management and the BBC's journalism board. Measures across the portfolio of current affairs on BBC One, to be introduced in 2005/6, will include:

Doubling the number of midweek hours of current affairs and investigations specials to 16 hours per year

In all, an additional 10.5 hours of current affairs in peak time: an increase of 28%. This brings the annual total of current affairs in peak to 48.5 hours

An extra £3 million will be invested across current affairs, including Panorama and Real Story. Panorama will account for at least half of the 16 hours of midweek specials per year. BBC One will continue to commission many hours of peak-time serious factual programmes from outside of the Current Affairs department - recent examples of which include dramas with contemporary significance, for example, Dirty War and documentaries such as The Secret Policeman, Secret Agent and The Protectors - as well as consumer affairs such as Watchdog.

Panorama is the BBC's flagship current affairs programme and the longest-running public affairs TV programme in the world. The programme, in its current Sunday evening slot, regularly attracts three million viewers. The programme, which celebrated its 50th birthday oa couple of years ago has specialised in scrutinising the use and abuse of power and making hard-hitting television. In 1995 Panorama broadcast the most famous programme in its recent history – Diana, Princess of Wales, interviewed by Martin Bashir talking candidly and for the first time about her life and her marriage, seen by a record 22.8 million people. Panorama's guiding principles include uncovering and investigating stories about Britain and the world, reporting with authority and context and providing journalism that makes waves and withstands scrutiny.

Real Story meanwhile has generally featured three items per programme. It will now be single subject in format, with a serious agenda of significance focussing on accessible reporting which highlights revelation and engaging story-telling.

BBC News director Helen Boaden, said, " From our audience research, we know that people consider current affairs programming to be very important to them as citizens and we are fully committed to delivering the BBC's hallmark of trustworthy and rigorous investigative journalism that is relevant to people's lives."

BBC Television director Jana Bennett, said, " Panorama is one of the most authoritative and respected parts of the BBC One schedule and will remain so. Our decision, after long consideration, to leave it in its regular Sunday night slot is designed to secure its award-winning, hard-hitting journalism and to support the programme makers in pursuing the agenda they believe in. The major increase in midweek peaktime specials will also give the programme the opportunity to create additional impact and to promote the sense of an agenda-setting event in the midweek schedule."

The BBC board of governors has published a review of current affiars programming saying, "The market for current affairs on television is very challenging - while the audience recognises that it is important to have current affairs programmes, most viewers would rather watch other types of programmes. A mainstream audience can only be reached by having more high-profile output in BBC One peak-time. For viewers who have an active interest in current affairs, the BBC has a good range of programmes, with refreshed output on BBC Two and well-established off-peak programming on BBC One. Panorama requires clarity over its purpose to enable a clear strategy to be developed to ensure that it thrives as the BBC's flagship current affairs progrmme.

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