Sunday, 01 November 2015 22:11

BBC beefs up coverage of rural issues

Written by  Ruralcity Media
BBC beefs up coverage of rural issues

The BBC has taken significant steps to improve its coverage of rural issues, says the corporation's watchdog.

A progress report by the BBC Trust follows an independent review of the BBC's rural affairs coverage published in 2014.

The review found that there was a broad and comprehensive range of voices in the BBC's coverage, and coverage of controversial issues such as badger culling was generally impartial.

    See also: BBC coverage 'has urban bias' - report

But it warned that there was a 'deficit' in UK-wide network coverage of rural England, prompting the trust to call for a progress update one year after the review findings were published. 

Its progress report, which follows up the review, was published on Tuesday (27 October).

The report shows that since 2014, the BBC has improved links between rural affairs and specialist journalists such as the Radio 4 Farming Today team and the wider BBC.

This has led to topical rural stories being broadcast on network news programmes.

Rural topics - incuding agricultural technology, rural housing and EU subsidies - have been covered by BBC Breakfast, The One Show and the Today programme.

The BBC has also commissioned a range of BBC Two programmes with a rural focus, including Lambing Live, about life as a sheep farmer; and Harvest, behind the scenes of British farming.

The corporation's flagship rural programme Countryfile has included a range of harder-hitting stories such as rural crime, the milk price crisis, and the effect of National Park budget cuts.

This followed concerns from some who took part in the 2014 review, including the Rural Services Network, that there could be a tendency to idealise rural life.

The BBC's response has included giving three English regions reporters specific responsibility to provide rural affairs stories to network news.

The progress report says this has led to reports on network programmes such as BBC Breakfast about the milk price crisis, starling murmurations, and the recovery in barn owl numbers.

There has also been progress on including the rural perspective in topical stories.

These have included the Today programme's '100 constituencies' series in the run-up to the 2015 General Election, which reflected rural issues and voices around the country.

BBC Trustee Richard Ayre said: "The BBC has shown real commitment to improving its coverage of rural lives, communities and issues on network TV over the past year."

This had made a "noticeable difference on-screen and on-air," he added.

"One of the big challenges both now and in the next Charter period for the BBC is continuing to reflect the UK in all its diversity and we'll look to them to continue the work they have started."

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