Brits Beam at BBC as Corporation Expands Reach in US

23 July 2004

There's good news and good news -- a rare commodity of late for Britain's beleaguered BBC.

On the home front, a recent report commissioned by the government's department for culture, media and sport, indicates a large majority of British viewers to be happy with the publicly-owned broadcaster, which achieved an overall satisfaction rating of 75%. [A score the Blair administration would kill for.]

The report, What You Said about the BBC, is an important contributing element in the corporation's upcoming Charter Review, a process that will determine its future from 2006 onward.

The general public perceive the BBC to be setting the standard for others to follow. Particularly its news reporting, seen as reliable, accurate and impartial -- despite what is widely believed to be the slanted findings of the government-commissioned Hutton Report on the BBC's reporting of the attack on Iraq last year.

When it comes to the welfare of its wallets, however, the Great British Public is less happy about the compulsory annual licence fee of £116 ($212.91; €174.17) that funds the BBC's activities. Around two thirds of the survey's 5,500 respondents think this should be consigned to the trash can.

Comments culture, media and sport secretary Tessa Jowell: "One clear message that does come through is that the public wants a strong BBC, independent of government. As I have repeatedly said, this is the only certain outcome of the Charter Review. "

• Meanwhile, on the other side of the herring pond, cable network BBC America is now available to over forty million US homes -- almost half of America's cable universe and accounting for 37% of all stateside households, reports Nielsen Media Research.

Not only does the six-year-old network broadcast indigenous UK soaps and sitcoms such as Coupling, Little Britain and My Family, it also produces local US adaptations of formats like Ground Force, also showing the latter genre in the UK too -- an astute variant of the BOGOF (buy one, get one free) principle.

Interestingly, it isn't just the BBC's classic costume drama series and Benny Hill-style vintage comedy shows that appeal to US viewers.

Observes Mark Young, president/ceo of BBC Worldwide Americas: "When BBC America launched just a few years ago, many predicted that the only programming that would resonate would be costume drama and classic comedy from the past. Just six years on, BBC America has demonstrated there is an American audience eager for the UK's most creative and innovative new programming."

Data sourced from: BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff