Ofcom's Annual Report and Accounts 2022/23
Ofcom Annual Report and Accounts 2022/23
As the UK regulator, our vision is to make sure communications work for everyone. This report sets out how Ofcom has performed against our objectives in 2022/23, and the impact of our work on people and businesses in the UK.
Our year in numbers
Our highlights for 2022/23
- Better broadband: new regulations, set in March 2021 and designed to incentivise and support investment in new full-fibre networks, are having a positive effect. Full-fibre-based networks are expanding rapidly, with over 50% of households across the UK in March passed by at least one provider, amounting to growth of 17 percentage points in just over a year - and a near seven-fold increase compared to five years ago.
- The future of mobile: demand for mobile services continues to grow rapidly. Investment is needed to support networks. To encourage investment, we clarified our future approach to the mobile market and the allocation of airwaves. To help people make informed decisions about which mobile provider to use, we are developing better information on network quality.
- Safe and secure networks: new duties introduced under the Telecommunications (Security) Act 2021 will help us protect people with safe and secure networks. We are working closer than ever before with industry to support security and resilience. We continued to help implement the UK Government’s strategy on vendor diversification, designed to ensure a competitive, innovative, secure and resilient telecoms supply market.
- Affordable, reliable post: following a review of the future of postal regulation, postal users will continue to have access to the simple, affordable and reliable services. New rules mean greater protections for parcel customers too.
- Universal mobile: getting a good mobile signal is essential for people to keep in touch, live and work on the move. We oversaw the progress of mobile operators in building a Shared Rural Network to improve reception in hard-to-reach areas, including travelling 42,000 miles to test coverage and ensure operators are providing accurate data.
- Universal telecoms: we continue to implement the Broadband Universal Service Obligation scheme meaning decent broadband is now accessible to thousands more homes. We made decisions to protect call boxes where they are still needed most and to remove requirements around the provision of fax machine services.
- Affordable phone and broadband: with living costs rising, we pushed more providers to offer social tariffs, and urged those who do so to promote them more effectively. Take-up has increased significantly, but millions more could still benefit.
- Protecting consumers: customers should get the right information, at the right time, about their contracts – helping them make better choices, often saving money as a result. We constantly monitor compliance with our rules, opening investigations where we think providers may be falling short.
- Tackling scams: scams cause financial and emotional harm to millions of people, especially the most vulnerable. Our intervention means providers must do more to help prevent telephone numbers being misused. We also raised awareness of nuisance calls through social media and other channels.
- Freeing spectrum: radio spectrum, a finite national resource, is the wireless infrastructure that supports modern lives, businesses and the digital economy. We identified new spectrum that can support growing and innovative services using mobile devices, drones and satellites, and explored how it could be freed up and released to organisations who want to offer these services.
- Commonwealth Games support: we worked closely with the organising committee of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games to deliver a highly successful event. Our spectrum team issued priority spectrum licences for a variety of critical wireless equipment such as microphones, cameras, in-ear monitors and walkie-talkies, providing us with further operational experience that we can apply to similar major sporting and cultural events going forward.
- Space strategy: people living in rural areas and passengers on planes and ships stand to receive better broadband, after we announced more airwaves for satellite services, doubling the capacity available.
- Ensuring diversity in broadcasting: the broadcasting sector should be as diverse as the audiences it serves. We have expanded the breadth of data we collect on broadcasters’ workforces to help promote equity, diversity and inclusion, after we identified further improvements the sector needed to make. We published a new framework and guidance on how we collect and use this diversity data.
- Making sure regulation is fit for purpose: we have continued to work with the Government and with industry to make sure regulation keeps pace with changes in the sector and in audience behaviours. We will continue to work with the Government to make sure its proposed new regulatory system, under the Media Bill, works for audiences, and we have already expanded our work examining the impacts of new and emerging technologies.
- Regulating the BBC: we completed a review of how we regulate the BBC, and how it engages with audiences, competitors and complainants. This review led to an updated Operating Licence for the BBC. In our annual report on the BBC we found that while it continues to deliver its remit, audiences from lower socio-economic groups are less likely to use its services and are less satisfied with it as a whole.
- Upholding broadcast standards: we have continued to set and enforce broadcast standards, to protect audiences from harmful content on TV and radio, and to take into account the importance of broadcasters’ right to freedom of expression. This year we assessed 37,109 complaints, completed 128 investigations and found 77 cases in breach of our broadcasting rules.
- New digital radio services: this year we have continued to license new small-scale DAB digital radio services across the UK. Our licensing programme in this area has led to 177 new digital radio stations being on air around the UK, giving listeners access to a range of local and specialist content that meets their needs.
- Making sure content is accessible for all: we have continued to enforce minimum requirements for access services such as subtitles, audio description and signing. We found Channel 4 breached the conditions of its broadcast licence following an extended outage of its access services in 2021. It fell short of a requirement to subtitle 90% of its programme hours on Freesat and failed to communicate with audiences about the incident. A separate review found organisations who deliver broadcasting services should review the contingency plans they have in place for transmission failures. We also launched a review of our guidelines for broadcast accessibility, including specific guidance around on-demand.
- Preparing for new powers: we set out a roadmap to regulation, including what we expect of regulated firms and what we will do in the first 100 days after our online safety powers are granted. We published two calls for evidence, one focusing on illegal content risks and mitigations and transparency requirements and the other on risks to children and how they can be reduced.
- Expanding our expertise: ahead of taking on our new powers, we continued to grow our expertise in digital technologies, data analytics and cyber security, with new hires from major tech firms, academia and the policy world. We grew our Data and Innovation Hub and our Hub in Manchester. We also announced a new leader for our Online Safety Group, former Google executive Gill Whitehead.
- Video-sharing platforms: we used our statutory information gathering powers to feed into a report on what video-sharing platforms are doing to protect their users, finding many platforms are ready for regulation. The report set out our key findings from the first year of regulation. We have built a comprehensive baseline knowledge of the VSP sector through our programme of research, supervisory engagement and information gathering. While all platforms have safety measures in place, more robust measures are needed to prevent children accessing pornography.