Insights Ofcom publishes fourth annual report on the BBC


The annual report covers April 2020 to March 2021 and looks back to assess how the BBC has performed since the beginning of the Charter period in 2017.

Ofcom explains that its responsibilities to hold the BBC to account on behalf of audiences, by providing fair, robust and independent regulation, cover three key areas: (i) overseeing the BBC’s performance in delivering its Mission and Public Purposes; (ii) protecting fair and effective competition; and (iii) securing content standards in BBC programming.

Ofcom publishes a report each year setting out how it has carried out its role and assessing the BBC’s compliance with the Operating Licence and other regulatory requirements as set out in the BBC Charter and Framework Agreement. Ofcom must also report at least annually on the BBC’s performance against measures it sets alongside the Operating Licence.

Given that we are at the mid-point of the Charter period (running from 2017 to 2027), this year, Ofcom has also set out its assessment of the BBC’s performance since Ofcom took on regulation of the BBC. Ofcom says that this feeds into its ongoing review to consider whether its regulation of the BBC remains fit for purpose in holding the BBC to account for viewers and listeners.

Overall, the report finds that the BBC has delivered its remit over the Charter period to date. It adapted quickly to the Covid-19 pandemic and remains popular with audiences: almost nine in ten adults used BBC services each week in 2021. However, Ofcom says that it has identified several long-standing themes from its work to date:

  • achieving due impartiality continues to be a complex challenge for the BBC: although the BBC has a good record of complying with broadcasting rules in this area, Ofcom continues to find that audiences rate it less favourably for impartiality; Ofcom welcomes the BBC’s recent actions intended to improve audience perceptions;
  • the BBC must keep evolving to be relevant to all audiences: some audience groups are consistently less satisfied, such as those in Scotland, disabled audiences and those from less well-off backgrounds; others use the BBC less, such as young people; the BBC will need to robustly hold itself to account in the delivery of its initiatives designed to meet these challenges; alongside, the BBC needs to improve how it represents and portrays less-satisfied audience groups and must ensure that its workforce is more representative of people from different backgrounds;
  • distinctive and original UK content which reflects the lives and issues of UK audiences must continue to be a priority for the BBC: this is at the heart of how the BBC appeals to all audiences and meets its Mission and Public Purposes; as the BBC pursues its strategy it needs to maintain its commitment to this; and
  • transparent decision making, reporting, accountability and engagement with industry should be further embedded into the BBC’s ways of working: Ofcom says that it has consistently called for the BBC to be more transparent given the importance of it to many people in the UK; Ofcom has seen some improvements but there is further to go.

To access the full report, click here.