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Last Updated: Friday, 27 August, 2004, 19:56 GMT 20:56 UK
BBC One controller defends quality
By Darren Waters
BBC News Online in Edinburgh

BBC One boss Lorraine Heggessey has defended the channel against accusations that it is losing touch with audiences.

EastEnders cast members Natalie Cassidy and James Alexandrou
Eastenders has been through a "tough patch", admits Lorraine Heggessey
She told a gathering of media executives at the Edinburgh Television Festival that BBC One was a broad mainstream channel which aimed to "please all of the people some of the time".

Ms Heggessey said the channel provided greater variety and breath of programming than any other channel in the UK, "possibly the world".

The channel has come under close scrutiny in recent months, with criticisms over flagship soap EastEnders, the launch of a review into the service and remarks in the BBC annual report that an increasing number of people felt quality was declining on BBC One.

The channel is also declining in popularity in multi-channel homes and among younger viewers.

'Majority happy'

But Heggessey said many of the criticisms were the result of perception being different from the reality.

She said programmes such as Pompeii, the commemoration of the D-Day landings, Hustle, Charles II and Strictly Come Dancing were proof of the channel's commitment to a range of shows.

Lorraine Heggessey
Lorraine Heggessey says BBC One has a wide variety of shows
BBC One could balance the need to be popular with public service broadcasting, she said.

Thirty percent of people questioned earlier this year said they felt quality was declining.

But Ms Heggessey said this showed that the majority were happy with the channel's performance.

EastEnders has come in for widespread tabloid newspaper criticism of late, prompting the show's producer to defend the show in a column in the Mirror newspaper.

Ms Heggessey admitted that the programme had gone through a "tough patch" earlier this year.

But she said that had been the result of things outside of the producers' control, such as stars being in rehab, or in a car crash or being ill.

'Wait and see'

"EastEnders is still attracting over 50% of the audience regularly.

"Approval figures are pretty much as they were last year."

A new family is being introduced to the soap in an attempt to bolster the programme's ratings.

"Let's wait and see how it goes," she said.

Speaking about the long-term future of the channel, Ms Heggessey said she hoped the channel end up being "a kitemark of a certain quality which gives the viewer a certain amount of reassurance".

She said that viewers would still want a scheduled channel offering a variety of programmes, even in the multi-channel world of personal video recorders and niche broadcasting.


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