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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 November 2007, 19:31 GMT
Lyons says BBC too London-centric
Sir Michael Lyons
Sir Michael Lyons has been chairman since May 2007
The BBC must be less London-centric, its chairman has said.

Sir Michael Lyons, who heads the BBC Trust, told the Royal Television Society that viewers' loyalty to the broadcaster was dwindling as a result.

He said people living outside the capital did not see their communities reflected in BBC programmes.

In his speech Sir Michael also acknowledged the public's concern over high salaries of on-screen talent like Jonathan Ross.

Value for money

He said it was important the BBC did not use the privilege of a guaranteed income to overbid for talent.

"There are tensions here, too, between the demand from the public for the BBC to bring them the best available talent, and a real concern that the BBC might contribute to inflated fees and salaries by responding too meekly to demands which reflect US realities rather than domestic values," he said.

The BBC Trust, the corporation's governing body, announced a review in June into the costs of on-screen and on-air talent to ensure value for money.

It works on behalf of licence fee payers, ensuring the BBC provides high quality output and value for money.

The BBC is planning to move 1,500 London jobs to Salford to be less London-focussed and better reflect the communities of the north of England.

Sir Michael said the BBC had to deliver value to all its licence fee payers, wherever they live.

'Worrying findings'

"One of the most worrying findings from the consultations we've done with the public is that people's loyalty to the BBC drops noticeably the further away they live from London," he said.

"The figures are really striking. Compare 83% in the South East agreeing with the statement that they would 'miss the BBC if it wasn't there', to 63% of those in Scotland and 64% of those in the north of England."

Sir Michael said that the BBC had to engage with licence fee payers as citizens as well as audiences.

Jonathan Ross
Jonathan Ross reportedly signed a 18m deal with the BBC

"The BBC must seek out opportunities to bring disparate communities together to share a sense of being part of something much larger - the national community," he said.

Sir Michael also said the corporation had ruled out broadcasting EastEnders five times a week.

"There is always a tension for the BBC here, between distinctiveness and competitiveness - since it is much easier to gain competitive edge by concentrating on certain genres than others, but only with a loss of distinctiveness," he said.

"That's the challenge we've put to the Executive. And the Executive's recent decision, for example, not to commission a fifth weekly episode of EastEnders, reflects their response to our challenge to them to keep BBC schedules distinctive," he added.


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