The BBC must earn viewers' loyalty by pursuing a less London-centric approach, its chairman has said.

Sir Michael Lyon, head of the BBC Trust, told the Royal Television Society that people living outside the capital were alienated by BBC programming that did not reflect their local communities.

"One of the most worrying findings from the consultations we've done with the public is that people's loyalty to the BBC drops noticeably the further away they live from London," he said.

"The figures are really striking. Compare 83 per cent in the south-east agreeing with the statement that they would 'miss the BBC if it wasn't there', to 63 per cent of those in Scotland and 64 per cent of those in the north of England."

He also responded to public criticism of the corporation, which is likely to sack over 2,000 staff as a move to cut costs, despite paying on-screen talent such as Jonathan Ross multi-million pound salaries.

"There are tensions here, too, between the demand from the public for the BBC to bring them the best available talent, and a real concern that the BBC might contribute to inflated fees and salaries by responding too meekly to demands which reflect US realities rather than domestic values," he said.

Sir Michael claimed the recent decision to rule out a fifth weekly episode of Eastenders was driven by a desire to keep BBC schedules distinctive.

02/11/2007 12:58:47