A report from

‘Staring into the Abyss’:The BBC, Trust, and Jimmy Savile

Research

December 2012

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Conclusion:
The BBC stands on a precipice- so far benefitting from a lot of goodwill from the public, but for how long?
•  Among the British public, the BBC is the most trusted news provider in the UK , way ahead of any other. 39% claim the BBC is their most trusted source. •  Next, and a long way behind, lag ITV (13%), Sky (10%) and The Guardian (8%). 39% of the public have high levels of respect for the BBC – which is far ahead of Starbucks (7%) Parliament (7%), News International (7%) and the Church of England (14%). While both Parliament and the Church of England fare dismally in comparison with Auntie for respect, the Armed forces and NHS win the highest accolades (79% and 69%) However, the BBC is in a precarious position in light of the Savile case. The affair has bred feelings of mistrust – which will reach critical mass if anything else goes wrong for the organisation 49% of the public trust the BBC less than they did prior to the recent events - and those who blame the BBC for Savile’s behaviour are more likely to have lost trust and respect for the organisation •  Those who blame the BBC are much more negative than those who don’t – only 21% of those blaming the BBC name it as their most trusted source of news (vs.48% among those who don’t blame the BBC) •  As such, attitudes towards the BBC could quickly worsen if perceptions of blame are intensified in the future (as a result of any inquiries or investigations). The effect of events on opinion seem to be divided by age. Because older people appear more engaged with the BBC generally, the impact of the Savile case is more striking. This is worrying, as it is among the older demographic where trust is naturally highest – and where its loss will be more keenly felt.

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A background of goodwill for the BBC…

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The BBC remains by far the most trusted news source
Despite recent events, the BBC is at least three times more likely than any other news outlet to be named by the public as the most trustworthy source of news

Q4

4
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The BBC’s national treasure status differentiates it from the rest
39% describe the BBC as being a national treasure (rising to 44% in those aged 55+). Only 15% feel the same about ITV.

British Establishment National treasure Trusted Up to date Friendly Out of touch Honest Not to be trusted Dishonest Accurate Cherished Integrity Inspirational Patronising Sleazy Understands me Commercial Vicious

Q3

5

Only Google generates stronger feelings of affection – and this is particularly the case for those aged 18-35 (with 66% of this younger age group having a high level of affection for Google, versus 39% for the BBC).

‘Auntie’ enjoys higher levels of affection than ITV or Sky

Q2

6
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Almost half view the BBC as a vital institution
This viewpoint is most prevalent among those aged 55+ (51%), but least prevalent among the 18-35 year olds (40%)

%

M3Q3, M3Q4

7
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Britain losing the BBC would be disastrous according to most of us
55+ year-old respondents most likely to think the loss of the BBC would be a disaster (68%, versus 59% for younger ones).

M4Q1

8
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39% have strong levels of respect for the BBC. This figure is at its lowest among those aged 34 or under (34%), and highest among those 55+ (44%)

Overtaken by the NHS and Armed Forces, the BBC earns much higher levels of respect than both the Church of England and Parliament
Net Positive/Negative

+73% +66%

+14% -30% -43%

Q5

9
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The BBC is faring much better than News International, Starbucks and now Amazon in the face of controversy
Only 7% highly respect News International now, versus 39% for the BBC
Net Positive/Negative +14% +16% -5% -32% -47% -51%

Q5

10
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Two-thirds don’t lay the blame for Jimmy Savile’s behaviour with the BBC
This proportion rises to 74% among those aged 34 or under. But a significant 33% does…..

M2Q2, M2Q3

11
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This goodwill can be easily eroded…

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Close to half of all respondents have less trust in the BBC since recent events
A deterioration in trust levels is most notable among the older respondents (up to 55% among those aged 55+)

49% trust the BBC less than they did before the recent events

19%

30%

43%

5% 3%

0%

20%

40%

60%

80%

100%

Much less than before

Slightly less than before

The same as before

Slightly more than before

Much more than before

M2Q2, M2Q3

13
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Divided opinion: the BBC may be generally trusted, but 16% do not trust it as a news source
Of the broadcasters, Sky fares even worse, but ITV and Channel 4 both less likely to prompt mistrust

% who do not trust news source

Q4

14
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The Savile case is a high-buzz topic among the public…
Almost two thirds say there is a lot of talk about Savile

15
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…with high levels of personal concern
Over a quarter feel very personally concerned about the allegations

M3Q3, M3Q4

16
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An attitude of blame towards the BBC over Savile more than halves the level of trust. 48% of those not blaming the BBC will name it as their most trusted source for news – versus only 21% among those blaming the organisation

Much lower levels of trust in the BBC among those who blame it for the Savile affair

Q4

17
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Recent deterioration in trust strongly linked to blaming the BBC over the Savile affair
75% of those who blame BBC for Savile trust it less than before, versus 37% among those who don’t blame the BBC

M2Q2, M2Q3

18
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Close to half view recent events as the worst-ever BBC crisis
62% reckon the BBC needs a radical overhaul, though this is strongly linked to age (from 52% among the 18-35s, to 76% in the 55+s). Over 55s also more likely to say the BBC will suffer lasting damage (53%, versus 44% for 18-35s)

M4Q1

19
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Key positives versus negatives

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The Positives
A clear majority agree it would be a disaster if Britain lost the BBC and around half still see it as a national institution to be proud of. A similar percentage believe that the BBC is fundamentally sound, has made mistakes but is trying genuinely to sort them out

The Negatives
Around half agree that this as the worst crisis in the BBC’s history and that its reputation will suffer lasting damage as a result A clear majority see it in need of a radical overhaul and one third believe it will be unable to recover its trust Only a third are impressed by its transparency in dealing with recent events and a similar percentage now believe that the BBC has lost its integrity
The survey was conducted online over the period 24-26th November 2012 using Conquest’s proprietary research methodology Metaphorix™
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