Belfast Telegraph

BBC vows to better reflect Northern Ireland life after low rating in public perception survey

By Adrian Rutherford

Audience perceptions of the BBC in Northern Ireland are among the worst in the UK, a watchdog has found.

The general impression of the broadcaster among local users, measuring opinions on issues such as trust and value for money, ranked more poorly than every other region bar Scotland.

The details are contained in a report by the National Audit Office examining the BBC's understanding of its audiences and users.

The study refers to surveys by the BBC which found the public's general impression of the broadcaster has, across the UK, averaged at seven out of 10 in each of the past six years. In Northern Ireland, the score is 6.5 out of 10 in viewer perception.

Only Scotland (6.3) was rated worse. By contrast the top-ranking region, London and the South, scored 7.2.

The BBC said: "As the report says, we are aware of perceptions of the BBC across the UK and we are increasing our focus in the nations to improve these.

"We are committed to better portraying and representing life in Northern Ireland in our network programming, for example in the new drama Come Home.

"And earlier this year we made our biggest investment into Northern Ireland in 20 years to benefit local audiences.

"This investment will help transform our digital offering across news, radio and sport. Local BBC services in Northern Ireland have some of the highest audience consumption and appreciation statistics in the UK and the £11m investment will also provide our audiences with more great local content across genres such as drama, factual and comedy."

The report found the BBC's audience engagement arm is at risk of failing to provide value for money for licence-fee payers after delays to two major projects.

BBC Audiences - responsible for collecting data about users across online, TV and radio - spent £22.4m in 2016/17 as it worked towards the development of BBC-ID, which requires users to log in to access online content, including the iPlayer.

The project was delayed by around 15 months while a service included in the corporation's cross-media measurement project - a major audience analysis initiative - faces delays of eight months.

It has recommended the BBC places the initiative in its critical projects portfolio in light of the current delays and ongoing risks.

In response, the BBC said its mandatory sign-in project was delayed due to a number of issues revolving around the decision to make it compulsory, as well as a launch pushback to avoid the 2017 snap general election.

It said it now had 19.2 million registered users following its launch in June and had been delivered within budget.

The delayed service is now expected to launch in spring 2018.

The report said BBC Audiences was expected to spend £23.7m in 2017-18, an 11% real terms increase since 2014-15.

It also warned of the issues the broadcaster has in tracking online data when content is posted to third-party sites such as Facebook, YouTube or Twitter as it is reliant on the organisations.

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