The BBC Trust side-lined the views of the public from its official report on the future of the Corporation – despite lecturing everyone else that the public’s voice should be ‘heard loud and clear’.
- Around 40,000 people responded to questionnaire from the BBC Trust
- Thought that governing body would pass their views onto Government
- Trust decided not to include survey results in official report on BBC future
- Those who took part said they were ‘outraged’ to have their views ignored
It also skewed the results of a survey, even after telling MPs that any decisions about the future of the broadcaster should be based on ‘evidence’ rather than any preconceptions.
Rona Fairhead, chairman of the Trust, spent the summer arguing that the BBC’s future should not be dictated by ‘prejudice’.
Instead, she argued, it should be decided by the public who pay for the broadcaster, and based on firm ‘evidence’.
‘This should all happen through a proper debate in which the public’s voice is heard loud and clear. The BBC’s future is simply too important to be settled behind closed doors.’
However, it would seem that the Trust failed to listen to its own advice.
Around 40,000 people then responded to the Trust’s questionnaire about the BBC, in the belief that the governing body would then pass their views on to the Government.
But the Trust decided not to include the survey results in its official report on the future of the BBC, and relied on a much smaller, paid-for study to represent the views of the public instead.
Its official response to the Government’s green paper repeatedly refers to the survey of 40,000 people, and the findings of ‘a nationally representative’ survey. But instead of the 40,000 members of the public who filled in the questionnaire, the results are from a sample of around 2,900 people chosen by polling agency ICM.
Last night, people who filled in the survey were outraged that they took the time and effort to set down their views, only to have them dismissed in the Trust’s official report.
Caroline Levesque Bartlett, who runs a campaign to ban the licence fee, said: ‘I find it really irritating…we are allowed to share our view only once every ten years, and the BBC Trust rigs. What a sham.’ A BBC Trust source admitted that the results of the public questionnaire were not properly included in the official document, and hinted that it may have run out of time to do the analysis it wanted.
She added that some of the broad findings were ‘reflected’ in the report, and that the full analysis would be published at a later date – after the deadline for submissions to the Government’s Green Paper on the future of the BBC has already passed.
A spokesman added: ‘We have taken full account of the views of the 40,000 people who contributed to our consultation. Our submission to the Government fully reflects the emerging themes from this and from our other research. All of the consultation results will be published in full, along with the other research and analysis we carried out.’ Meanwhile, members of the public also accused the Trust of ‘misrepresenting’ ICM’s findings.
One of the questions asked viewers: ‘Thinking about the range of services and programmes paid for by the licence fee, in your opinion, do you think that the BBC should provide [far more, a little more, a little less, far less or it is about right]?’ Critics of the BBC might well have demanded more, amid concerns that it does not currently provide enough value for money.
However, the BBC Trust gave the question a very different spin in its results, suggesting that the vast majority of viewers simply want the BBC to expand or remain the same size.
‘Our nationally representative survey found that 93 per cent of people either want more BBC services and programmes, or they felt that what the BBC currently provides is about right,’ it said.
A BBC Trust spokesman denied that the report skewed the results. ‘We don’t agree that the way we have presented this data misrepresents the question that participants in the research were asked, though we are happy to clarify: people were asked about the range of services they get from the BBC and the vast majority either said the BBC should provide more, or what it currently provides is about right. It was not a question about value for money of the licence fee,’ the spokesman said.
She added that the licence fee was mentioned simply ‘as a statement of fact’, rather than to suggest that people should consider the value for money the BBC offers.