As part of the BBC Trust's recent review of BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Three and BBC Four, it found that BBC TV audiences were getting older and more upmarket. Despite the UK median age of 40, BBC One, BBC Two and BBC Four were attracting audiences with an average age of around 60.
Only BBC Three bucked the trend, appealing to a younger and more downmarket audience, although the channel has lost some appeal among the lowest socioeconomic groups. Ahead of the BBC Executive's plans to move BBC Three programming online, the Trust said "BBC Three has yet to establish itself as an online destination."
|Older and more upmarket: BBC TV|
The Trust's review found that BBC Television has also lost viewers from ethnic minority groups.
The findings raise fears that the BBC is not properly serving all of its licence-fee paying audience and that BBC Television is becoming less creative. The report noted how BBC One's evening schedule played it safe, relying heavily on The One Show and EastEnders during the 7-9pm slot.
David Liddiment, the BBC Trustee who jointly led the review, said: "The BBC is special and affection for its many excellent programmes shone through in our audience research and consultation, but viewers also highlighted the areas where they felt the BBC could do better.
"The privilege of the licence fee gives the BBC uniquely the opportunity and the obligation to be daring and to take risks with programming that sets it apart. This report sets out a plan to help it do just this and we look forward to working with BBC Television to deliver it.
"For BBC One in particular, we share Tony Hall’s ambition that it has to be not only the nation’s favourite channel but also its bravest, building on the very best programmes in its schedules, that not only entertain and delight audiences, but also frequently challenge and surprise them."
The Trust now says its "wishes to receive a report from the BBC Executive within six months of this review’s conclusion which sets out how it will increase the distinctiveness of programmes and schedules, with a focus on BBC One". The BBC Trust will also have the final say on the closure of BBC Three.
"The data from the report shows that BBC One, BBC Two and BBC Four are all increasingly attracting the same, mature and upmarket audience. The report did show that older people watch more TV - which will drag average audience ages upwards - but with the average age of BBC One, Two and Four viewers around 60, it shows that the BBC is failing to be relevant a younger generation of viewers.
The BBC has been told to make its TV services more appealing to younger audiences and viewers from ethnic minority groups, even with BBC Three in the mix. Without BBC Three, that job gets more difficult, and may require more than the odd late night slot on BBC One and Two absorbing current BBC Three programming, but would provide an opportunity to refresh the presentation on BBC TV and reduce repeats, as BBC Two, Three and Four rely heavily on repeats.
But the report also showed that BBC Two and Four's output is gaining appreciation, and their factual and niche output is gaining loyal followers. Will such viewers want to see programming that appeals to younger viewers infiltrate their viewing schedules if BBC Three closes?"
BBC Four loses obligation to show 20 foreign films a year
The BBC Trust also announced that BBC Four's service licence has been changed. BBC Four no longer has a numeric quota for the number of international and foreign language films a year. Announcing the change, the BBC Trust said: "The Trust expects BBC Four to continue to show a good number of foreign-language films and it retains a commitment to do so in its service licence. The Trust has also asked that BBC Four commit to showing a range of foreign-language drama, in terms of genre and style."