Public trust in the BBC has fallen sharply in the wake of the scandal involving fake phone-in competitions on high-profile programmes and wrongly edited footage of the Queen, a Guardian/ICM poll shows today. The poll also reveals a wider crisis of public confidence in the broadcasting industry as a whole, with viewers strongly sceptical of what they see on television, even when they are told the scenes are real.
Fifty-nine per cent of those questioned say they now trust the BBC less than before. Only 37% say their opinion has remained unchanged, despite the BBC's admission that it had made mistakes and would ensure that they were not repeated.
If the BBC come out of this in bad shape their global reputation will be severely dented, repairing that will not come easy, and the Government will use this as crucial negotiating leverage when they next come come to discuss the fate and role of the BBC in our society and culture.
Engagement Marketing is predicated on trust. And like all abuse of trust the backlash can be painful.
And it does not get worse than this
The BBC has long-prided itself on its reputation for accuracy and honesty, but the poll suggests that viewers think its channels are no more honest than those of commercial rivals such as ITV and BSkyB.
Asked whether they think the BBC is more likely to tell the truth than its rivals, only 37% agree. A clear majority of viewers and listeners - 58% - said they thought that there was no difference between the BBC and other channels.
The organisation, which promises that it aims to be "independent, impartial and honest", has been battling to defend its reputation for accuracy after a series of embarrassing admissions.
Heads rolled at the BBC after it was revealed that Children in Need, Comic Relief and Sport Relief had all featured fake competition winners and that during an episode of Blue Peter a studio guest had posed as a competition winner.
And concerns about trust run much wider than the recent Beeb fiasco 74% of the recent poll agreed that many things on television are made up, even when they may appear real.
With Only 22% of viewers said that they trusted what they saw.
We are huge supporters of the BBC here at CDB. We cannot ever, I believe, be without Auntie as we call the BBC, as it does have a remit which I think stands in the way of outright commercialism. Look at the USA and the use of VNR's here and Fake TV News: Widespread and Undisclosed
VNR's are what are decribed as Video News Reports submitted to US TV news platforms but are highly mediated, and weighted in favour of the companies, issues etc., that that news excerpt covers. And why is this bad? Because
1). VNRs are aired in TV markets of all sizes
2). TV stations don't disclose VNRs to viewers
3). TV stations disguise VNRs as their own reporting
4). TV stations don't supplement VNR footage or verify VNR claims
5). The vast majority of VNRs are produced for corporate clients
6). Satellite media tours may accompany VNRs
So the BBC should be a beacon of light and perhaps a ray of hope in a highly mediated world. It no wonder therefore that OhMyNews for example the Korean news platform is so successful. Written by Citizen Journalists, some 70,000 of them. And why, OhMyNews has been described by the Guardian as one of the worlds most powerful and influential domestic news platforms.
Founded on the premise that "every citizen is a reporter," OhmyNews is accredited for having a tremendous impact on the news production, distribution and consumption habits of citizens across the world. By promoting an inclusive online forum for news reporting, OhmyNews encourages online global collaboration and features over 40,000 contributing journalists worldwide, generating over one million hits daily. OhmyNews president Oh Yeon Ho reflected on the importance of online social movements, “Being acknowledged by institutions such as Infosys and Wharton confirms the arrival of citizen journalism as a catalyst to create an egalitarian media.
Its all down to the need and in fact demand for unmediated news and information. That is seperate from the needs, both financial and political of other news and media organisations and those companies that apply external pressure on them, both financial and, political.
The symptoms of the crisis of the U.S. media are well-known: a decline in hard news, the growth of info-tainment and advertorials, staff cuts and concentration of ownership, increasing conformity of viewpoint and suppression of genuine debate. McChesney argues that the problems are due to more than the effective concentrated corporate control over the media system with its obsession with maximizing profits regardless of the consequences. The core problem is that the public policies that have created this media system were made corruptly, behind closed doors, with minimal or nonexistent public awareness or participation.
So in a world where for £2.50, you can plug into a network, use some open source software, and become your own media platform. It iseems insane to destroy trust. Especially in an organisation that has many other competitors gunning for your demise.
But we have sympathy for the Beeb and that is becase it has suffered at being exposed to the market via government policy, beginning with Margaret Thatcher. Her decision has in many ways, driven a venerated institution into this whole sorry saga. Add a little media fragmentation, outsourcing to RDF combined with dwindling audiences and the need for ratings, BBC 3's Teens addcited to Porn and My Man Boobs and ME and there you have it - a recipe for disaster at some point.
The leader article in the Guardian put it quite succintly
The essence of a national institution is that everyone feels they have a stake in it. For the BBC, even in the multi-channel environment that diminishes its dominance as a broadcaster, this sense of ownership is particularly apparent. So the loss of faith revealed in our poll today, showing that 59% of those questioned now trust the BBC less than they did before its recent troubles (the figure is worse among older viewers), represents a very personal kind of betrayal. But it has much wider implications. Just as the point of the gold standard was to keep currency honest, the BBC's is to keep broadcasting honest. Its integrity is its core purpose. Any damage to it is lethal ammunition for its enemies in the rightwing press and the Murdoch media empire who have been revelling, for their own (unstated) commercial reasons, in the corporation's public embarrassment. Dishonest picture editing and rigged phone-ins are unforgivable, as every senior BBC figure from the director general down acknowledges. Everyone who values a strong independent broadcaster and good journalism must ensure Auntie emerges stronger from her humiliation.
The question is what comes next?