Insights Ofcom publishes its review of BBC’s materiality assessment relating to its local online news proposals

Under its Digital First strategy, the BBC is aiming to modernise its delivery of news and current affairs. It plans to make savings in broadcast news so that additional money and resources can be invested in its video and online news provision. As part of this approach, the BBC intends to expand its local online news offering in England.

Ofcom says that it has carefully scrutinised the BBC’s “materiality assessment” alongside other available evidence, including information provided by the News Media Association and the published financial statements of local news publishers.

In summary, Ofcom’s assessment is that the impact on the total revenues of online local news providers is likely to be less than 1%. Ofcom also considers that, while the proposals will mean that the volume of BBC online local news content may grow and attract a bigger audience, it will not necessarily replace the interest in and consumption of commercial online local news content that already exists. This leads the regulator to conclude that the change is not one that may have a significant adverse impact on fair and effective competition. Therefore, Ofcom does not consider the change to be “material”.

However, Ofcom recognises the importance of protecting competition in the provision of local news and says that it will closely monitor the progress of the BBC’s proposals. This will involve gathering detailed information from the BBC and commercial news publishers to assess the actual impact of the BBC’s proposals on audiences, to be shared in its next BBC Annual Report. If evidence emerges of harm to competition from the BBC’s ongoing activities in this area, Ofcom says that it will not hesitate to step in using its BBC competition powers. To access Ofcom’s assessment in full, click here.