BBC saved public trust with quick action, says Thomson

The BBC was hit by the premium rate phone-in crisis that engulfed the industry last year but it acted quickly and decisively to save public trust, according to BBC director general Mark Thomson in the corporation’s annual report.

In the foreword to the report, Thomson adds after “a cluster” of issues with phone votes and competitions and the “mis-editing” of a promotional clip for its Monarchy series, the BBC acted quickly to launch the biggest training course in its history and introduce a series of new controls and safeguards.

He adds the measures were crucial because “without public trust the BBC is nothing”.

Thomson also uses the report, which covers the year to March 31, to outline the BBC’s future vision in digital and on-demand, which he believes will shape the BBC over the next 1o years.

He says the Christmas launch of internet catch-up service BBC iPlayer, which by March had reached 17 million monthly downloads and streams, has not cannibalised the broadcaster’s linear TV and radio ratings.

The BBC’s overall weekly reach to the UK population is up slightly over the year, from 92.5% to 93%. Its viewing and listenership figures among 16 to 34 year olds held steady across the portfolio although BBC Three reported a 23% share of the demographic compared to 17% last year.

Profits at commercial arm BBC Worldwide increased to £118m on increased revenues of £916m, both ahead of target.

Meanwhile, figures show the BBC trimmed its marketing, press and publicity budget by £4m to £41.6m from £45.4m a year earlier, with spending on on-air trails down from £22.2m to £22.1m.

Its spend on TV rose 1.6% to £2.35bn and radio spend rose 6.2% reaching £599m. However, spend on online rocketed 18.2%, from £154m to £182m. The corporation’s total spend on services was up 3.3%, from £3bn to £3.14bn.

BBC Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons concludes: “There is still much to be done but we are confident that the BBC is stronger for its new more challenging governance arrangements which add to its many other strengths.

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