22 JUN 2022

BBC must transform the way it serves audiences, Ofcom warns

According to Ofcom, the BBC “must be much more open and clearer with audiences about how it handles their complaints, responds to concerns and meets viewers’ and listeners’ needs.”

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As it approaches the mid-point in the its current Charter period, Ofcom has been reviewing the BBC’s performance and its future regulation of it. As part of this, the regulator has tracked audiences’ experiences and interactions with the corporation, and their feelings towards it, discovering that the BBC “must be much more open and clearer with audiences about how it handles their complaints, responds to concerns and meets viewers’ and listeners’ needs.”

One in nine people have had a reason to complain about the BBC. However, most of those do not actually make a complaint, with many telling Ofcom 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 favorably on impartiality. “So, we are now 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 said in its report.

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. Therefore, according to Ofcom, the BBC needs to keep developing its online services, while continuing to deliver distinctive, original UK content. In that sense, Ofcom has set out proposals for a new Operating Licence for the BBC, to enable its continued transformation. Ofcom’s consultation on the BBC’s new Operating Licence is open until September 14, 2022. A final decision and updated Licence is expected to be issued in early 2023, in time for the new Licence to take effect on April 1, 2023.

“Viewers and listeners tell us they aren’t happy with how the BBC handles their complaints, and it clearly needs to address widespread perceptions about its impartiality. So we’re directing it to respond to these concerns, by being much more transparent and open with its audiences. The BBC must also adapt quickly to keep up with changes in what audiences want, and how they get their content. We’re doing our bit, by future-proofing our regulation so the BBC can continue its transformation for the digital age,”  said Dame Melanie Dawes, Chief Executive at Ofcom.

Viewers and listeners tell us they aren’t happy with how the BBC handles their complaints, and it clearly needs to address widespread perceptions about its impartiality” Dame Melanie Dawes Chief Executive at Ofcom