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Rural residents slam BBC coverage of rural issues

Countryfile, Springwatch and even The Archers have been slammed by rural residents for their unbalanced portrayal of life in the countryside.

A survey conducted by the Countryside Alliance found that the overwhelming majority of the rural population do not have faith in the BBC’s coverage of rural issues. Springwatch and Autumnwatch were among the least well regarded programs with more than 90% of respondents saying that they did not properly represent rural issues. BBC news was also heavily criticised with 92% of those completing the survey expressing their dissatisfaction with news coverage of rural issues.

The flagship rural affairs programme Countryfile did little better, with 89% of viewers criticising its coverage of country life. The best performing BBC show was ‘Farming Today’ which is broadcast on Radio 4 during the, less than prime, time slot of 5.45 to 6am on weekdays. However even this programme found favour with less than 50% of listeners. The Archers, which was originally established in collaboration with the ministry of agriculture to disseminate information about good practice to farmers, has long been a staple of rural households.

However it too has lost much of its support among country folk with only 20% of respondents saying it properly represented rural life. Tim Boner, Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance said: “The BBC must appreciate that the minority rural audience does not feel fully represented.

“There is a desire for rural programming for the countryside, not just about the countryside. In short, rural programming should not only take into account what urban viewers may find of interest and it needs to showcase the value of important rural activities like farming, shooting, hunting and angling”.

Shooting Times readers were keen to point out that rural broadcasting had been hollowed out over the last few decades. Reader Peter Croy said: “Looking back there was some great rural coverage. In the 60s they had Jack Hargreaves – Out of Town, then in the 80s there was One Man and His Dog and even 20 years ago Clarissa Dickson Wright and John Scott had a TV series.”