Viewers more satisfied with BBC than most rivals, survey finds

Guardian Web |

Television viewers are more satisfied with the BBC than other channels according to a survey for Ofcom, the media regulator, delivering a boost to the corporation as it prepares for a backlash over how much it pays its stars.

Satisfaction with the BBC is higher than ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky, although Netflix has the highest rating in broadcasting among its users, highlighting the changes taking place in how people watch programmes and films.

But audiences in Scotland are not as happy with the BBC as the rest of the UK and there is criticism over the corporation’s religious programming and innovation.

The survey has been published as the BBC prepares to reveal which employees earn more than £150,000 and how much they are paid. The list of employees is likely to include entertainment stars such as Graham Norton, sports presenters such as Gary Lineker and newsreaders such as Huw Edwards.

The disclosure will provoke criticism of the BBC for how much it spends on presenters and the pay gap between male and female employees. The last BBC annual report reported that 109 TV and radio presenters earned above £150,000 – more than the prime minister.

Related: BBC's James Purnell: 'You can’t serve young audiences without serving diverse audiences'

David Cameron and Theresa May’s governments demanded that the BBC make the disclosure under the terms of its new 11-year royal charter. Andrew Marr, the presenter, admitted in a recent interview that it is “uncomfortable for all of us”.

However, James Purnell, the BBC’s director of radio and education, defended the level of pay at the corporation. In an interview with the Guardian, he said: “You can’t really expect a world-class BBC without world-class talent. Yes, we absolutely have been controlling costs of talent. But there’s got to be a balance to strike.”

The BBC will publish the pay details alongside its annual report on Wednesday.

The survey for Ofcom by Ipsos Mori found 51% of television viewers rated their satisfaction with the BBC as eight out of 10 or more, compared to 37% for ITV or its Scottish equivalent STV or Northern Ireland’s UTV. Channel 4 scored 34% in the survey with Channel 5 on 18%, while Sky was rated at 50% as a broadcasting platform.

Amazon’s on-demand service scored 48% while Netflix hit 65%. Netflix, whose exclusive programmes include House of Cards, rated particularly highly among young viewers with 72% of 16 to 34-year-olds reporting high satisfaction.

The BBC’s radio and online service also performed well in the survey, scoring 64% and 65% respectively.

Ofcom became the first independent regulator of the BBC earlier this year and the survey has been published as part of its new remit. The Ipsos Mori report was based on almost 2,000 people aged 16 and above who have seen or heard the respective services in the last three months.

TV viewers in Scotland rated the BBC lower than those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. A total of 43% of Scottish viewers said their satisfaction with the BBC was eight out of 10 or more, compared to 52% in England, 55% in Wales and 56% in Northern Ireland.

The BBC wa s criticised in Scotland for its coverage of the independence referendum in 2014 and Ofcom has already told the corporation to invest more outside London.

The survey also questioned whether the BBC is doing enough to support new programmes and the quality of its religious programming.

While 53% of respondents in the survey rated the BBC as eight out of 10 or better for the quality of its programmes compared to rival channels, just 30% said it takes a chance on programmes based on new and innovative ideas. Similarly, just 41% rated it as eight out of 10 or better for religious programming and 48% for comedy compared to 69% for children’s programmes and 66% for current affairs.

A BBC spokesperson said: “We’re glad people really value the BBC and are proud the BBC has the highest satisfaction rating of any public service broadcaster. We’ve already announced that we’re making the biggest single investment in broadcast content in Scotland in over 20 years, including a dedicated TV channel, and we are continuing to ensure that the important role faith plays is recognised and reflected in our programming.”

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