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31/07/2002

Quality regional programmes essential to ITV1 & BBC

Viewers regard regional programmes, especially news, as an essential part of ITV1 and BBC services and want to see them continue.
They also believe the quality of regional television programmes matters more than the quantity, according to new research commissioned by the Independent Television Commission (ITC) and Broadcasting Standards Commission (BSC).
Pride of Place is published Wednesday July 31 by the ITC and BSC. It reports on the findings from two citizens' juries and a citizens' forum, as well as a survey of 5,500 additional television viewers, asking them for their opinions on the role and importance of regional television programmes.
Among the key findings are:
Regional news is viewed as a vital service that should remain part of ITV1's programme provision. Almost all viewers express an interest in regional news programmes (82% of the panellists, for example)
Other priorities for ITV1, according to viewers, are the provision of regional current affairs, local history and sports programmes. These are considered an important part of the television mix.
Quality of programmes is more important than quantity. Most viewers said they would accept fewer regional programmes if the remaining output was guaranteed to be better resourced.
Scheduling is an issue for many viewers, who are concerned that regional programmes were shown at unattractive times. Viewers would prefer regional programmes to be shown in and around peak time. Viewers also want better signposting, trailing and promotion of regional programmes.
Using local talent is considered important, not just for the economic benefits to the local community, but also because it would result in programmes which are accurate in their representation of regional concerns.
Regional identity is particularly important to viewers in Wales and Scotland, and they show a greater interest in programmes that reflect their nations. Awareness of regional output, other than news, is not as high in English regions, but it continues to be valued by viewers.
"These findings are very encouraging as we work with our licensees to secure the best deal for viewers in the future," said ITC Chief Executive, Patricia Hodgson. "The opinions of viewers were an important consideration for us as we agreed the Nations and Regions Charter with ITV in May*, and this research should remind and encourage both broadcasters and independent production companies that viewers expect good quality, relevant and well-scheduled regional programming as a fundamental part of their free to air television service."
Paul Bolt, Director of the BSC added: "This research illustrates how with sufficient care and imagination valuable input from viewers and listeners themselves can inform even relatively complex public policy issues in broadcasting. The Broadcasting Standards Commission has always sought to support its regulatory work with research into public attitudes and is very happy to have been involved in this study, which points the way for the approach the OFCOM Content Board will need to take."
(GB)
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