Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20-39)



  20. I do not even understand that, Mr Dyke, because the other part of the question I was going to ask you is about the parenthesis at the end of that bullet point on page 13, "(three-minute reach figures)". Are you therefore telling us that what you can boast about with BBC4 is that, having lost 90 per cent of its audience after a month, you are only now able to measure any appreciable reaction on the basis of a three-minute reach, which includes four-year-olds?
  (Mr Dyke) Mr Chairman, it might make a good headline but it did not lose 90 per cent of its share in its first month. You are comparing share with reach, and you are comparing two very different—

  21. Explain it to me, Mr Dyke. If I am being stupid about it, explain it to me.
  (Mr Dyke) If you look at pages 108 and 109, one gives you the share by reach, which is a 15-minute weekly reach; the other gives it to you by share. They are two distinct measures. This is the number of people who, at some stage during the week, watch that channel for 15 minutes. There are the figures there.

  22. If it is 15 minutes, will you explain "three-minute reach figures" on page 13?
  (Mr Dyke) I would consider that it would be consistent on reach figures between this and that. There are two reach figures published by BARB: one is a three-minute reach and one is a 15-minute reach. This one is done on a 15-minute reach. However, it is not unusual—in fact, it was almost certain in every station I have ever been involved in—that actually, when you launch a channel, you get a blip at the beginning; it goes back down, and then gradually over time it rises. If you give a lot of publicity to the launch of a new channel, you get a blip—inevitably.

  23. I read in the newspaper that what you achieved—setting aside the simulcast that you did with BBC4—in terms of digital homes the peak that you were reaching was 11,000 viewers, of whom you now appear to have lost 9,500.
  (Mr Davies) Chairman, you are quoting reach and share figures as if they were interchangeable, and they are really different figures. At the moment, BBC4 is reaching about 1.1 million people per week in digital homes. That is about almost five per cent of digital viewers. That is the number of people who watch it for three successive minutes at some point in the week. That is the reach of the channel. The share of the channel is a completely different matter, as is the average viewers per programme, which I think may be the figure that you have read in the press which you have just quoted. I do not know what the 11,000 figure is, but that could conceivably be it. There is a big difference between the average viewer for a particular programme and the number of viewers over a whole week that access the channel.

  24. I understand all of that, Mr Davies, and I understand that you get these somewhat larger figures by adding together people who may have zapped in for a short while; then you add them all together and say that you have this audience of five per cent in the first month. However, would you just explain this to me—because, as I say, I am ready to be instructed on this matter—if you are talking about 15-minute periods why, on page 13, do you talk about a three-minute reach figure? It is your figure; you put it in.
  (Mr Davies) Because both are true.

  25. Which is truer?
  (Mr Davies) Both are true but they are measuring different things. It is like the difference between a pint and a quart. They are both accurate but they are measuring different quantities.

  26. They can be different things. What I do not understand is how many people you claim are watching these channels. When you talk about a three-minute reach figure, you must have put "three-minute reach figure" in for some good reason, must you not? The Clerk has put that my time is up!
  (Mr Dyke) Because my time is not up, I presume that I can continue! Surely what you should be discussing about BBC4 is content? If you have what is often quite esoteric, quite difficult content, you will not get large audiences. Are you saying that we should not attempt to do a very large number of the Proms on television, because they will not get large audiences?

  27. Since my time is up, I will refer you back to Mr Bryant. I have the droit de seigneur as far as this is concerned.
  (Mr Davies) May I write you a letter, chairman, that explains—

  Chairman: No. I want you to tell me now.

Mr Bryant

  28. I wholeheartedly agree with BBC4 and I think that BBC3 should happen, so that you better serve those audiences which are presently under-served. However, my question is about access for the 50 per cent of my constituents who pay the full licence fee but do not have the opportunity of digital televison.
  (Mr Dyke) It is a perfectly fair question. What we are trying to do is to take what we judge to be the best programmes of the digital services and repeat them at some stage on BBC1 and BBC2. That is all we can do at present. Remember, it was the Government who decided not to have a digital licence fee. A digital licence fee would have solved the problem. We recognise that there is a problem. You could argue that somewhere between 10 and 15 per cent of the money that they are paying is going on services that they cannot receive.

  29. But part of the answer lies in your hands. You are rolling out digital radio and digital television, increasing the coverage of digital terrestrial television and digital radio on exactly the same map, slowly through Britain, but it will not be getting to the Rhondda for quite some time, as far as I can see.
  (Mr Dyke) I agree. There are particular areas of Britain where to roll it out is incredibly expensive. There are plans on how you could bring digital terrestrial television to those areas. Some of those areas, I suspect, will only receive digital terrestrial television when there is actually switch-off.
  (Mr Davies) Bear in mind also that the sole motivation for bidding for the DTT franchises—which a consortium, including the BBC, won last month—is to spread digital take-up more rapidly and make these services more widely available. We are hoping that cheaper boxes, under £100 a box, will become available to people and they will be able to get these services much more readily.

  30. You can buy them in Dixons for £79 at the moment—second-hand ITV Digital ones—which probably still belong to somebody else!
  (Mr Dyke) What we discovered in all the work we did there was that digital terrestrial television is a technological nightmare for this country at the moment. You discover that only 39 per cent can actually receive, and half of those get interference. Something has to be done, therefore—which is what we will do, along with the others. We have to sort out the technology if we want to get a much broader reach. At the moment, people are buying boxes, taking them home and cannot get them to work.

  31. Yes, I have one. Could you write about the roll-out of coverage? Every time I ask this, we do not seem to move much further forward on knowing when digital terrestrial television will reach some of the more difficult areas. It would be refreshing if we did not always follow the same roll-out pattern, which is that we always get to certain places last on the list. Those people are paying the licence fee, just the same as everybody else.
  (Mr Dyke) The ones that are normally last on the list, as you know, are the ones that are the most expensive to cover in terms of the roll-out. That is the problem.
  (Mr Davies) Would you object if we write to you on that subject, Chairman?

  32. No, he would not. May I ask one other question? Do you and your journalists like politicians?
  (Mr Dyke) I am not sure that is a question I should answer really. Either way, it seems to me to be a difficult question. I expect that there are some I like and some I do not like. Some a bit like you, probably!

  33. In the reporting of news, therefore, do you think that it is right that politicians or commentators should most substantially report events?
  (Mr Dyke) Politicians should be used in the reporting of events, but should not report the events, no.

  Mr Bryant: Do you think that you have that balance right? Because I think that there would be many of us who would worry about it.

Rosemary McKenna

  34. I will move on to something different. It is about the audiences that you under-serve at the moment. Clearly you have been very successful in introducing a variety of different cultures from the minority ethnic groups into programming. For example, in the last two years in EastEnders, and certainly the introduction of The Kumars, which I think everyone absolutely adores. That does not seem to be translating into the management of the BBC. You report a very small increase in the levels of senior management. I think the report says that it is now up to 3.2 per cent. How many does that represent and what steps are you taking to improve that?
  (Mr Dyke) We will have to check on the actual numbers. When I arrived at the BBC the figure was two per cent. The figure across our staff generally was eight per cent. We set ourselves a target for the end of 2003 to be at 10 per cent of the staff and four per cent of the management. You could argue that four per cent is still a pathetically low figure, and I would not disagree with that. However, it will take time. I will have to let you know the exact numbers. We are quite confident that we will hit the 10 per cent figure in our staff by the end of 2003. I would be surprised if we did not hit that. It is obviously something which you can put in place. The law allows you to put in place all sorts of training programmes, and that is what we have done. In terms of the management, I suspect that the only way we will see a significant change over time is through internal promotion. We have introduced a programmed called Ascend, which we did with women a decade ago. The level of women in management has changed phenomenally. Thirty-seven per cent of the management figure are women. That is up from 32 per cent in two years, and up from 14 per cent when we started. It is therefore a dramatic change. We have to do the same thing in relation to ethnic minorities. Ascend is a programme which identifies people from ethnic minorities with management potential and tries to fast-track them through the organisation.

  35. I was involved in training programmes for women before I came here, and I know how successful that has been. It did achieve success very quickly. You should be able to do exactly the same with members of the ethnic groups—really intensive training and identifying people whom you can fast-track through the system. Do you have plans in place to do that?
  (Mr Dyke) We have a programme which we have introduced this year called Ascend. In the first 18 months we had what I would call a fairly scattergun approach. We had a lot of different programmes. We then took the money and said, "Let's concentrate on the five who we think have a chance of being successful". It will undoubtedly take time. Two weeks ago we appointed a manager of a local radio station from, for the first time, an ethnic minority background. It is beginning to happen, but it is slow and it is hard work.

  36. We would encourage you to get on with that. It is very important in the public sector.
  (Mr Davies) We have set a very clear objective for next year. The objectives for next year are on page 17—to "accelerate progress towards the BBC's target of 10 per cent of its total workforce and four per cent of senior management coming from ethnic minorities". So we are very aware of the problem you are raising.
  (Mr Dyke) Given that two-thirds of our workforce are in London and most are in urban conurbations, even 10 per cent is a fairly low figure.

  37. Can I move on to the other under-served group, the young audiences. Since my family fit exactly into the characteristics of that group who are leaving—you report a drop of young people aged 16 to 35 in your share of BBC1 audience—what steps are you taking and where are we with BBC3?
  (Mr Dyke) With BBC3 we are currently awaiting a decision from the Secretary of State. She had concerns about the effect of BBC3 on the commercial marketplace. We have some figures; the ITC have now produced some figures, and broadly we are in agreement. We are expecting a decision some time in the next month.

  38. Hopefully a positive one?
  (Mr Dyke) We hope that it is a positive one, yes.

  39. But if it is not? Across television in particular?
  (Mr Dyke) It is a big issue for us. BBC2 has shifted to aim at an older age group. I suspect that, with the sports events and suchlike this year, it will have helped us a great deal in the current year. I suspect that the Jubilee helped us in this category, because that seemed to get everybody in.

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Prepared 9 August 2002