The BBC should ‘dare to be different’ so it can connect with wider audiences, according to regulator Ofcom.

Ofcom published its fourth annual report today on the BBC’s performance, to assess how well the BBC has served UK audiences so far during the Charter period. The report was published on the same day as it approved the return of BBC Three as a linear TV channel.

It found that the BBC has broadly delivered against its remit. Ofcom said the BBC remains popular with viewers and listeners, and last year saw its reach stabilise after a period of decline.

Almost nine in 10 adults (87%) consume BBC content each week.

The Ofcom review also identifies several long-standing themes that the BBC must address.

These include:

Improving audience perceptions of BBC impartiality

Ofcom said the BBC remains the most popular source of news in the UK. But while audiences score BBC TV news highly for accuracy (71%) and trust (68%), audiences consistently rate it less favourably for impartiality, with 55% giving it a high score.

Remaining relevant to its whole UK audience

Around three in five adults (58%) have a favourable impression of the BBC. But disabled audiences (53%), people in Scotland (49%) and those from less-well-off backgrounds (53%) are less satisfied.

Younger people aged 16-34 spend much less time with the BBC each day – just over an hour compared with 2 hours 23 minutes for the average adult. More children aged 11-16 use Netflix (77%) than the BBC’s TV, radio and online services combined (74%).

Daring to be different

Ofcom research found that fewer than half of UK adults rate the BBC positively on providing content that ‘dares to be different’.

The BBC’s spending on first-run, original TV content has been in long-term decline – from £1.6bn in 2010 to £1.01bn in 2020 – a decline exacerbated by the pandemic (-16% year on year). Spending on first-run programmes in at-risk genres like comedy and music has declined faster compared to spending on all other genres

But the BBC’s support is still crucial to the UK’s creative sector. Forty-four per cent of total spending by UK public service broadcasters on commissions from external production companies comes from the BBC.

As the BBC focuses on high-impact content in the face of budgetary pressures and increasing competition for audiences, Ofcom said it must maintain its commitment to original UK content, including in at-risk genres. “We would be concerned if acquisitions were to play too large a role in the BBC’s overall content mix,” said Ofcom.


Jon Creamer

Share this story

Share Televisual stories within your social media posts.
Be inclusive: is open access without the need to register.
Anyone and everyone can access this post with minimum fuss.