The BBC’s flagship domestic TV channel, BBC1, now shows less factual programming than its main rival, ITV1. That’s the surprising finding of a new report ‘Outside the Box’ just published by the International Broadcasting Trust (IBT).

The IBT has been keeping statistics on the amount of international factual programming broadcast annually on the UK’s TV channels for over 20 years. The latest report says that In 2010 the main UK terrestrial channels broadcast fewer hours of new international factual programming than at any time since the study began in 1989. International content is in decline on every terrestrial channel except Channel 4, and BBC1 has now replaced ITV1 as the channel with the least amount of new factual coverage of developing countries.

Although international content is declining on terrestrial channels, it is increasing on some digital channels. In 2010, BBC3, BBC4 and More4 all had record amounts of new international factual programming. The IBT says this migration of international content to digital channels matters because audiences for digital channels are usually much smaller than for terrestrial channels and, since one of the main purposes of the BBC is to ‘bring the world to the UK’, it is important that all audiences have access to international content regardless of which channels they usually watch.