Insights Ofcom publishes terms of reference for its review into how the BBC connects with audiences on lower incomes


Ofcom’s last Annual Report on the BBC, published on 30 November 2022, found that people in lower socio-economic groups, traditionally called D and E groups, who account for almost a quarter of the UK population, are less engaged and less satisfied with the BBC. The Report found that these audiences watch, listen to, or browse BBC content less than the rest of the population and are least satisfied with how they are represented and portrayed in programmes.

To understand why, Ofcom announced that it would carry out an in-depth review into these audiences’ habits and how the BBC is delivering for them. The regulator has now published its terms of reference for that review.

According to the terms of reference, the review will use a variety of research and analytic techniques to delve deeper into the attitudes and habits of audiences and investigate what content appeals to D and E audiences to further understand their relationship with the BBC and its services. The review will focus on the following areas:

  • Connection: Ofcom will explore how the BBC connects with audiences in lower socio-economic groups who have been shown to be less satisfied; it will look at their wider media consumption, the role the BBC plays in this, and how this group accesses both the BBC and other media providers;
  • Content: Ofcom will seek to understand how different types of programming serves different audiences and engage with the BBC to understand its approach to commissioning with diverse audiences in mind; some BBC content is popular with these groups, but overall, they use BBC services less than other audiences; and
  • Context: previous research has highlighted that people’s views on the BBC can be shaped by a range of different factors; this can include the BBC brand, how it is funded and its portrayal in the wider media; Ofcom will also consider whether these issues and any others are relevant to how people form opinions and attitudes to the BBC.

Ofcom will also carry out further analysis on the extensive information and data it currently collects in relation to the BBC and look at reach data to attempt to understand which content resonates with certain audiences.

In addition, Ofcom will commission new in-depth research, capturing the diversity of these audiences across the UK. It will speak with people who use the BBC more often, and those who utilise its services less.

Ofcom says that it will also be engaging with the BBC on its own work in this area to ensure it fully understands and consider the BBC’s approach to delivering for diverse audiences. Ofcom will also engage with wider industry and other interested parties.

The findings will inform Ofcom’s next annual assessment of the BBC’s performance, which will be published in autumn 2023. To access the terms of reference, click here.