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Thursday, November 4, 1999 Published at 20:49 GMT


Quality first for BBC One

BBC One: Committed to a wide variety of programming

BBC One is to put quality programming first - and cut down on docusoaps - after an in-depth review of the channel's output by BBC executives.

The review, led by the corporation's director of television, Alan Yentob, said BBC One should show a broad "range and diversity" of programmes while still providing popular shows.

It says it should support and showcase programmes which are not seen on commercial stations - and innovate in genres which can already be found elsewhere.

[ image: Alan Yentob: Determined to be ambitious and adventurous]
Alan Yentob: Determined to be ambitious and adventurous
Yentob's team undertook the review after the BBC's governors raised concerns about the direction the channel was taking. The governors have now given their backing to the report.

The BBC said it should "offer the broadest range and richest genre mix of any broad appeal television network in Britain," including during the peak hours.

It also said BBC One should have a portfolio of "landmark programmes" across all genres, commit itself to "innovation, risk taking, and nurturing new on and off-screen talent".

Yentob said: "This review is designed to guarantee BBC One's commitment to genuine range and diversity. We are determined to be both adventurous and ambitious.

[ image: Walking With Dinosaurs: Held up as top quality - it also tops the ratings]
Walking With Dinosaurs: Held up as top quality - it also tops the ratings
"There is a genuine difference between the aspirations of BBC One and our commercial competitors, and this review helps us to identify where it is essential we continue to differentiate the channel."

The review also states BBC One is the channel of "national events", and commits the channel to clearing its schedule for two "major and topical" debates each year.

It also promises a wider mix and range of factual programmes with less docusoaps, and "landmark programmes" to follow in the footsteps of The Human Body and Walking With Dinosaurs.

The channel is committed to taking risks with entertainment and sitcoms "in a way that no other broadcaster would or could", following the success of shows like The Royle Family, transferred from BBC Two.

A relaunch for childrens' programming and a commitment to the arts are also included in the review.

Despite "increasing competition", the review also commits BBC One to "a wide portfolio of sports".

[ image: Peter Salmon:
Peter Salmon: "Widening gap" between BBC One and rivals
BBC One will also set targets for the transmission of well-known programmes which float in the schedules. Question Time will be aired no later than 2230, and Everyman and Omnibus will be shown no later than 2240 from spring 2000.

The channel's controller, Peter Salmon, who was also on the review panel, said: "This adds up to a package of changes geared to meeting BBC One's responsibilities in the era of digital and internet choice.

"The review has been an extremely useful exercise. It has allowed us to stop the carousel and really assess what we want BBC One to be in this new broadcasting world."

He added the commitments showed the "widening gap" between BBC One and its rivals and accused ITV of showing little more than soap, entertainment and drama at peak times.

Despite the emphasis on quality over ratings, there is good news for Peter Salmon in the latest audience figures.

They show that in the week ending 24 October, Walking With Dinosaurs was the UK's most-watched programme, with 17.96 million viewers. All three episodes of EastEnders that week beat ITV's top-rated shows, Coronation Street and Heartbeat.

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