Cash-strapped BBC4 still a success, BBC rules – but BBC1 must do better

Despite being starved of enough money to make original drama, the BBC Trust is happy with BBC4's performance

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BBC4, the channel which is now so cash-strapped it cannot air any dramas, enjoyed a “very successful year” according to the BBC Trust.

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The BBC’s regulatory body gave the channel a clear thumbs up in its annual report in a year when its future was considered in flux and at a time when it doesn’t even have a head of programmes.

The BBC’s annual report said that the channel “bucked the trend” of declining viewers for digital channels and said that viewers were “more likely to think BBC4 programming was fresh and new”.

Last year BBC4 was handed a 10% cut to its £54.3m annual budget as part of the Delivering Quality First cost-saving project.

It’s controller Richard Klein recently left to join ITV and it is likely that he will not be replaced, with his responsibilities continuing to be overseen by BBC2 controller Janice Hadlow.

However the channel was also backed by director general Tony Hall who told this week’s Radio Times: “I think BBC4 does a fantastic job. What we are doing, and I will have things to say about this in the autumn, is looking at BBC2 and BBC4 – how you can run them with an independent focus and with both having their own sense of what they are, but together in the sense that we should be thinking about what each is doing and how you can work in a complementary way without losing the qualities of either. I don’t want BBC4 being narrowed down.”

However BBC1 was considered an area that could be improved according to the Trust.

“We are keen that, whilst it must offer something for everyone, BBC1 should also showcase distinctive types of high-quality content [such as drama series The Village]. We will be examining how much further it can go,” said the report.

Radio 1 was also criticised for failing to bring the age of its listenership down, a long-held canard of the Trust.

“There has been some increase in the proportion of the station’s audience that are aged 15 to 24, but the median age of listeners has remained stable,” said the report.

Not surprisingly “audience perceptions of accuracy, trustworthiness and impartiality fell significantly in autumn 2012” for BBC2’s flagship show Newsnight following the programme’s inaccurate and libellous report on Lord McAlpine.

Radio 4 was praised for “another very strong year” but executives were asked to extend its appeal outside England and in Scotland and Wales.

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The report also revealed that the Corporation has spent more than £5m of licence fee payers’ money so far on internal investigations and inquiries relating to the Savile abuse scandal.