It has not been a good time for the BBC of late. Scandals on premium rate phone-ins have rocked shows like Blue Peter and Comic Relief while the corporation still carries the scars of the Hutton Report and the constant debate over whether viewers should continue to pay for the service.
Closer to home, Northern Ireland viewers have personal concerns on programming: why are so few shows produced here screened nationwide? Does Northern Ireland feature strongly enough in UK-wide news coverage? And why are so few women on our daytime radio waves?
They are difficult questions but one man attempting to address them is Sir Michael Lyons, chairman of the BBC Trust and a lynchpin between viewer and the corporation in terms of making sure everyone is kept happy.
"I find it very exciting," says Lyons of his new post. "I haven't joined to make programmes - although I'm sure that would be very exciting to be close to - but I joined because of the contribution the BBC can make to the future of this nation."
Lyons joined the Trust in May this year following a varied career in leadership posts across local government, education, the arts and television. He was born by the docks in London and studied social sciences and economics, first at degree then masters level, before moving to the Midlands to teach at Nottingham University.
In 2007 he got a call from BBC headhunters looking to fill the post of Trust chairperson.
"A friend on the board of the Royal Shakespeare Company called and said 'you've exactly the right sort of skills for it (the job of chairman). You're used to engaging with the public and knowing what people expect when paying for a service'. I said that it would be great, but I didn't think so. But she said I should apply, which I did, and must have written the best application ever."
The Trust is a newly established watchdog for the BBC and the chairman's job is a complex one.
"The Trust is a parent body of the BBC," explains Lyons. "It agrees the budget, holds the BBC accountable on behalf of those who pay for it, makes sure they get value for money, have quality programmes and it also stands up for the BBC."
As a regulatory body the Trust cannot tell the BBC what to do but can help shape and direct a company that Lyons feels still plays a major role in contributing to Britain's economic strength and creative force. He is, for this reason, a strong advocate of the licence fee despite the increasing wealth of channels now on offer to viewers.
"It is a challenge," he agrees regarding whether people should continue to pay £135.50 a year for the service. " But if you ask do you think we get enough value out of £11 per month for BBC TV, radio and the extraordinary range of online services, then most people would say yes. It is a challenge in a multi-channel world and not like it was in the past when people only switched between BBC and ITV - people now have 420 choices at any moment but it doesn't rule out the case for a licence fee. The BBC does distinct things of a different nature and cuts new ground."
In particular he draws attention to the recent dramas by Stephen Poliakoff, Joe's Palace and Capturing Mary. "If you are interested in new drama, where else do you find that?" he asks, also drawing attention to factual programmes such as Tribe, and current affairs programmes like Panorama.
Interestingly none of the programmes he mentions are made in Northern Ireland and when I point this is out he is keen to stress that this should change.
"I've been left with the very clear message that the BBC is not commissioning enough material in Northern Ireland," agrees the chairman. "One thing the Trust is very clear about is that what people want from the BBC is their voice reflected in what they see. The decisions about where money is spent is not a decision for the Trust, that's what we have a director general for, but the Trust is saying that more work needs to be commissioned in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland."
The wheels are already in operation with this and several new programmes are scheduled to be made here for broadcast nationwide and regionally. In particular Sir Michael draws attention to Sesame Tree, a local variant of Sesame Street aimed at three to six-year-olds that uses the accents, issues and terminology of Northern Ireland to promote learning; Blue Print, a programme looking at the geology of Northern Ireland, and a new radio series addressing crux moments in listeners' lives. And exports, Messiah and Murphy's Law, continue to be made for nationwide audiences.
But does Northern Ireland still retain a role of 'outpost', failing to make it on to the national news agenda? In a recent letter to the Belfast Telegraph, one viewer contended that in stories concerning the UK, it was rare to see Northern Ireland held up as an example of an area affected.
"You find the same anxieties in many parts of the UK," agrees Sir Michael. "Someone in Wales or even Birmingham will say the same, that the BBC at times appears to be preoccupied with London and the south-east and the fact that people say that means it's an issue."
For this reason he says it is important not only for the BBC to include outside broadcasts from around the UK but also for us to cherish the importance of local TV and radio.
If the role of local news is to be cherished, however, then surely it's worrying that recent BBC cuts saw 75 jobs up for the chop at the Ormeau Road? Sir Michael disagrees: "The plan is to amalgamate news-gathering teams that work separately and bring them together. For anybody worrying about what the news in the future will be like, the money spent this year has actually been more than the year before. We want to make sure we get the most for our money so the responsibility of the BBC is to stretch that as far as it can and only employ as many people as need to. Obviously it's not good news for the individuals involved but any company from time to time has to change the number of people it employs."
He says increased attention will be given to ensuring programmes made in Northern Ireland look to move beyond the politics of the Troubles: "One of the biggest challenges in the context of Northern Ireland is understanding how the community wants to move on and build on the increasingly stable circumstances." To this end, the Trust is keen to promote programme- making that looks instead at more universal themes or cultural issues.
I ask if it concerns him that there is only one key female voice (Wendy Austin) on Radio Ulster during the Monday-Friday daytime schedule. "Any imbalance ought to be addressed," he replies. "The Trust has to see that the BBC does not have rigidity in its ability to recruit women as well as men. But there is a range of very talented women working for the BBC so there's not a problem in recognising or retaining them." On the recent contentious issue of the BBC not screening enough Gaelic sport the chairman reiterates that imbalances need to be addressed and that "the BBC is in negotiations with the GAA and hopefully there will be more GAA games on our screens in the future".
He is also keen to stress that the forthcoming change to digital shouldn't be feared. "It is unequivocally good news," he says. "You have got to change to get to the future. TV was a big change from radio, colour TV was another big change, then the move to more channels and high definition. Digital will provide a better service for people with different interests."
Unfortunately Northern Ireland still looks set to make the change late in the switch-over, probably around 2010-2012, something that could raise difficulties if RTE changes earlier.
He adds: "At the moment the plan is for Northern Ireland to be towards the end of the schedule but it is something that needs more thinking."