Insights Ofcom warns that BBC must transform the way it serves audiences


As we approach the mid-point in the BBC’s current Charter period, Ofcom has been reviewing the BBC’s performance and Ofcom’s future regulation of it. As part of this, Ofcom has tracked audiences’ experiences and interactions with the corporation, and their feelings towards it.

Ofcom found that one in nine people has had a reason to complain about the BBC. However, most of those do not actually make a complaint, with many telling the regulator that it would not make a difference or be taken seriously. These concerns are nearly twice as high for the BBC than for other broadcasters.

Ofcom also asked audiences about BBC news and current affairs. Although they rate its news highly for trust and accuracy, conversely, they rate it less favourably on impartiality. Accordingly, Ofcom is directing the BBC to change its policy and publish sufficient reasoning in cases where it decides not to uphold due impartiality and due accuracy complaints.

Ofcom says that while the BBC is still generally popular with viewers and listeners, the way content is consumed has changed dramatically over the last ten years and is still evolving rapidly. The BBC therefore needs to keep developing its online services, while continuing to deliver distinctive, original UK content. Ofcom is now consulting on proposals for a new Operating Licence for the BBC to enable its continued transformation. The consultation is open until 14 September 2022 and Ofcom expects to issue its final decision and updated Licence in early 2023, in time for the new Licence to take effect on 1 April 2023.

Ofcom has also published a review of the interaction between BBC Studios and the BBC Public Service. In this review, the regulator sought to better understand how the BBC has implemented Ofcom rules. Ofcom has also assessed whether its regulation remains effective. Ofcom regulation aims to make sure the BBC’s commercial activities do not gain an unfair advantage over competitors by virtue of their relationship with the BBC.

Ofcom says it will be consulting on changes to its competition regulation in the autumn to enable to BBC to more effectively adapt its services to better meet audience needs, while ensuring fair and effective competition is protected. For further information and for links to all relevant documents, click here.