The BBC’s new home: essential or a waste?
Open letter to Tony Hall
The waiting is almost over. For the past three months you have been contemplating what you will do as the BBC’s director general. When you walk through the gleaming doors of New Broadcasting House on 2nd April, you will have to start taking decisions. Plainly, your overarching challenge is to restore public trust. How? What is it about the BBC, after the turbulence of recent times, that most concerns viewers and listeners—and what is it that they cherish and which you disrupt at your peril? YouGov’s latest survey for Prospect has tried to find out.
The good news is that, compared with other pillars of national life, and other media outlets in particular, the BBC still rides high, even after the traumas induced by the Jimmy Savile crisis. It comes fourth out of a list of 12 British institutions in which we have pride—ahead of the police and our legal system and miles ahead of the civil service, parliament and our national newspapers. Only the National Health Service, our armed forces and the monarchy command more affection than the BBC.
To view a full sized version, click here
When asked how much they are trusted to tell the truth, BBC journalists, trusted by 51 per cent of people, outdo those writing for upmarket papers such as the Times, Telegraph and Guardian (40 per cent) and red-top tabloids, such as the Sun and Mirror (just 10 per cent). However, the BBC used to be trusted far more. In March 2003, the proportion was a remarkable 81 per cent. No British institution has tumbled further over the past 10 years. At the height of the Savile crisis three months ago, it was trusted by only 44 per cent, so it has recovered a little ground since then.
So should your target be to raise trust levels back to 81 per cent? I fear that if it is, you are doomed to fail. Trust in virtually every facet of public life has fallen in the past decade. We are generally a more sceptical nation. It’s unreasonable to suppose that the BBC can buck the trend on its own. To restore its relative position—compared, say, with judges, teachers and…