Written evidence submitted by 38 Degrees
Submission to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee
inquiry into the future of Public Service Broadcasting
This consultation submission is based on the views of more than 70,000 members of the public. The staff team at 38 Degrees gathered these responses through online surveys carried out 17-26 April and 8-13 June. Should you require a data set of all responses, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
We asked respondents four key questions specifically about the future of the BBC:
● How important is it to you that the BBC is easily accessible by everyone?
● In the current national emergency, what are you relying on the BBC for most right now?
● What qualities do you want the BBC to have?
● While the country is in a state of lockdown, and we’re all at home much more, what’s the most important thing about the BBC to you right now?
The responses, which came from people in every constituency in the UK, show a huge grassroots outpouring of support and affection for our national broadcaster at this time of national crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has shown how much we all rely on a fully-funded BBC, which is going above and beyond to inform, educate and entertain us while many of us stay at home. These responses show that its future must be secured as a publicly-funded, independent, high-quality broadcaster accessible to all.
About our BBC campaign
We started this campaign on 16 February as a response to comments from some in the government about "whacking" the BBC and "pruning" its services. In response, more than 280,000 people signed a petition on the 38 Degrees website to "Save our BBC". Further, 105,847 members of the public used the 38 Degrees website to take part in the UK Government’s consultation on decriminalising the licence fee. 84% of those who responded through our website said they opposed decriminalisation. Also, 94% answered a question saying that they believed plans to “whack” the BBC came from a desire to avoid scrutiny.
About 38 Degrees
38 Degrees is an online campaigning organisation, involving 2 million people from every corner of the UK. We help people make their voices heard on issues they care about, so that they can make a difference in the country and in their local areas. That ranges from 300,000 of us who came together to help make sure digital giants like Amazon paid their fair share in tax - to Terry, in Hertfordshire, who used a 38 Degrees petition to stop his local hospice from closing down.
The most important thing to me is that, just like the NHS, BBC services are available to all and free at the point of delivery.
We need to find a fair way to fund this service so that it remains affordable. - Christine, North East England
Between 17-26 April and 8-13 June, the 38 Degrees staff team emailed out invitations to complete a short survey to respond to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee inquiry into the future of Public Service Broadcasting. 71,688 people responded. Respondents were adults of all ages, from all backgrounds and from across the country.
74% of respondents were over 60, reflecting the importance which the BBC's services have had for older people during the coronavirus crisis.
Here is a breakdown of where respondents live:
Accessing the BBC
The BBC is a vital public service, no less important than the NHS! It must be saved and enhanced and invested in - Julia, North West England
Respondents were asked how important it was to them that the BBC was easily accessible. More than 96% of the respondents said that it was very or quite important that the BBC was easily accessible by everyone.
The BBC is the only source I trust completely and still the best value for programming. - Jason, South East England
Respondents were then asked to select all the qualities they wanted the BBC to have. They were able to select multiple qualities from a range of options. Their responses show that there is enormous public demand for a high quality, publicly funded BBC, providing a broad range of services for everyone.
There is a simple, trustworthy and honest service, without adverts, for whatever I need and for however I'm feeling. - Charles, Yorkshire and The Humber
We asked respondents what BBC services they were relying on during the coronavirus crisis. They were presented with a range of options and could select as many as they liked. Their answers show the extent to which members of the public are relying on the corporation's services for high-quality entertainment and reliable, factual information. The answers demonstrate the importance of a trustworthy news source for information about the public health crisis, as well as TV and radio entertainment during an unprecedented lockdown.
Most important thing about the BBC
Finally, we asked respondents "While the country is in a state of lockdown, and we’re all at home much more, what’s the most important thing about the BBC to you right now?". Rather than reproduce all 71,688 responses, we have created this visualisation showing the most frequently cited words used by respondents to describe what they think is important about the BBC. Respondents overwhelmingly spoke about their reliance on the BBC for trustworthy facts in an era of fake news, impartial reporting and high-quality entertainment. Parents who responded were clear that the lack of advertising on children's programming was particularly important. As you can see words like "trust", "quality" and "reliable" came up time and time again.
Unbiased news information I can trust. Informative programmes on radio and TV. - Susan, North East England
The BBC may not be perfect but they can be trusted. Their mixture of news, education and entertainment is vital. - Norman, Scotland
Our BBC is the most trusted news outlet in the world. The envy of many. We should be proud of what we have. - Sara, Yorkshire and The Humber
Their children's programmes are more factual, informative, less violent, and far more educational than any other broadcaster. - Teresa, South East England
Excellent news and analysis and broad, relevant and entertaining programming with no advertisements. - Margaret, East Midlands
Earlier this year, 38 Degrees crowdfunded opinion polling from Savanta ComRes about public attitudes to the BBC. Savanta ComRes interviewed 2,005 adults in Great Britain using a quantitative survey from 21 to 23 February 2020. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all GB adults.
Respondents were asked: "Thinking about news sources, if you heard a story that you considered important, which of the following would be the first place you'd think to go to see if the story was true or not?" 58% said that the BBC would be the first place they would check. (See results below.) In an era of "fake news" it is vital to maintain the BBC as an independent, accessible source of trusted information. (Further, more recent polling on behalf of the BBC has found that people are most likely to turn to it for news that they trust the most.)
Where would be the first place you'd go to see if a story was true or not
The BBC News website, tv channel or radio stations
The Sky News website or tv channel
The website of a newspaper e.g. Mail Online, The Guardian
Social media sites e.g. Facebook, Twitter
Local news websites e.g. Manchester Evening News, The Daily Record
Other radio stations e.g. LBC, talkRADIO
Other large news websites e.g. Huffington Post, Breitbart
The results shown here illustrate that the UK public care passionately about protecting the BBC as a publicly-funded, independent, high-quality broadcaster accessible to all. People across the country rely on the BBC for information and entertainment, something which has become particularly pronounced during the coronavirus crisis. They love the breadth of BBC services as well as their depth, from great dramas to local news to children's programming. Hundreds of respondents drew parallels with another great British institution, the NHS.
As shown by the earlier responses to the UK Government's consultation on decriminalising the licence fee, there is a strong public mood to protect how the BBC is funded. People are strongly resistant to attempts to "whack" the corporation. Our earlier polling underlines the BBC's vital importance as a trusted source of reliable information.
As a result, on behalf of tens of thousands of members of the British public, we call on the committee to do all you can to protect the BBC from attacks on its funding, quality and independence.
 Ipsos Mori: BBC most trusted news source 2020