What we are starting to do this year to serve all audiences

James Purnell, Director, BBC Radio & Education

The BBC serves neither the market nor the state. We serve the public. We are only here to make good programmes and do good through those programmes.

To do that, we need to reach everyone.

We reach 97% of people aged over 45 every week.

Four years ago, we reached 95% of 16 to 44-year-olds.

Today, that number has fallen to 92%.

We don’t believe that’s because younger audiences want the BBC less — OFCOM surveyed them and found that they believed in the purpose of public service broadcasting as much as previous generations.

In the Radio and Education division, we’ve been thinking about what we can do to fulfil that purpose. We’ve just completed our performance review, and have agreed two goals for the next year.

First, we need to stop that decline in reach — we’re not doing our job if we’re not serving everyone. So we’ve been looking at how we can strengthen our offer for younger audiences and will announce plans in the next few weeks.

Second, we need to make that time they spend with us even more worthwhile. We’re not scared by the increase in competition — we’re in a golden age of media and that means that audiences have more choice than before, and will spend less time with us than before. Audiences over 65 spend 27 hours a week with the BBC on average. For those under 45, it’s less than 12.

We’ve no desire to over-turn those trends. For a start, that’s still a lot of consumption — 16–34s spend much more time with the BBC than they do with YouTube, Facebook and Snapchat combined.

But we do have a burning desire to give audiences just as much value from that smaller amount of time they spend with us.

We don’t yet know how we’re going to do that, but this year we’re exploring how we reinvent the BBC for the next generation. Is it about even more outstanding creativity? Unique programmes — those that make people say “that was worth the licence fee by itself?” Is it about serving audiences in additional ways — helping them find and discover their passions? Developing their skills? Or is it about how the BBC serves society? Is it about collaborating with audiences so we understand them better and they can shape what they get from us?

We’ve kicked off work in Radio and Education to explore those questions. I’ll be writing here about what we discover as we seek to reinvent what we do and grow our reach.

We’ll be experimenting with new approaches to content too — we’ll also discuss these here. The first one of those posts is on BBC Ideas, a new way of curating factual content. You can find it here.

Originally published at medium.com on June 23, 2017.

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