Still graveyard for Panorama, but midweek slots increase

By Caitlin Pike

The BBC has confirmed that Panorama will not move from its
‘graveyard’ slot at 10.15 Sunday night but will be given more midweek
peak slots and a share in the extra £3m to be invested in current
affairs.

The fate of the flagship was revealed in a package of measures aimed
at increasing the prominence and appeal of the BBC’s current affairs
programming.

Also outlined are plans to increase the amount of
current affairs programmes during peaktime on BBC One from 38 to 48.5
hours a year. As part of this, midweek current affairs and
investigation specials will double to 16 hours each year. The report
clarifies the BBC’s continued commitment to investigative journalism.

Independent producers will also have more opportunities to contribute to BBC current affairs output.

Helen
Boaden, director, BBC News, said: “From our audience research we know
that people consider current affairs programming to be very important
to them as citizens and we are fully committed to delivering the BBC’s
hallmark of trustworthy and rigorous investigative journalism that is
relevant to people’s lives.”

The proposals come after a report
commissioned by the Corporation’s governors found the BBC serves those
who are actively interested in current affairs but failed to provide
for more mainstream viewers. The “lack of a regular, high profile
peaktime offering” on BBC One was a key problem.

But despite
this, the report did not recommend that its flagship current affairs
programme, Panorama , be restored fully to peaktime schedules.

Arguing that the move in 2000 from Monday to Sunday was “almost an accident”

the
report warned that a move back to peaktime could now damage the
programme because of competitive scheduling. People had got used to its
Sunday slot, the report claimed.

Although there was praise for its impact, Panorama was criticised for being “flat” with a “slow narrative,”

which has not kept up with changes in viewing behaviour.

Jana
Bennett, director, BBC Television said: ” Panorama is one of the most
authoritative and respected parts of the BBC One schedule and will
remain so.”

The report noted the BBC’s current affairs output has
remained at the same level over the past two years while ITV1’s has
doubled with the addition of a second weekly episode of Tonight with
Trevor McDonald. The report said that this was “an unsustainable
position for BBC One”.

NUJ broadcasting spokesman Paul McLaughlin
said: “We welcome the increased investment in current affairs
programming and look forward to further details. Clearly this should
mean that Panorama will not be subjected to the needless 15 per cent
cuts proposed by Mark Thompson.”

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