Page last updated at 07:06 GMT, Friday, 20 November 2009

BBC Trust happy with regions progress

Sir Michael Lyons
Sir Michael Lyons on a visit to Northern Ireland

The chairman of the BBC Trust has said he will continue to focus on ensuring that the corporation properly serves all parts of the UK.

Sir Michael Lyons said that a recent report to the trust on network news coverage of nations and regions had detailed significant improvements.

The BBC had been severely criticised in 2008 because its national news did not effectively serve all its audiences.

But Sir Michael said improvements were being made in news and other areas.

He pointed to successful dramas produced by BBC Northern Ireland this year, "Five Minutes of Heaven" and "Occupation", as "outstanding achievements" and evidence that the corporation was investing in quality output outside London.

There has been criticism from actors based in Northern Ireland that not enough local talent is being utilised in such productions.

Balance

But Sir Michael said it was important for the BBC to maintain quality regardless of whence its productions came.

"There's a balance to be struck. The highest priority must be for the viewers and listeners that actually we produce outstanding programmes," Sir Michael said.

"They would like to see their lives reflected in BBC output so that is a priority but none of that can compromise the search for quality and distinctive BBC programmes."

Since it replaced the BBC governors in the wake of the Hutton Inquiry, the BBC Trust has repeatedly been in the public eye as various controversies beset the corporation.

Strength and confidence

These have included the decision by the director general Mark Thompson not to permit the broadcast of an appeal for victims of the Gaza conflict earlier this year.

A prank phone call by Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross to veteran actor Andrew Sachs also led to considerable criticism of BBC editorial procedures.

Sir Michael said that despite his significant workload, he did not feel beleaguered because of the public's general faith in what the BBC does.

"I spend a lot of time travelling around and speaking to a lot of people about the BBC. You do get a lot of grumbles but the second point people generally make is how much they value the BBC and are very anxious at anything that affected its strength and confidence in the future.

"We protect it in the way it has survived for 80 years and become a part of the British way of life."



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