More UK programmes on the BBC

13 October 2017

The BBC must broadcast more original UK programmes under new rules designed to ensure it offers high-quality, distinctive programmes for its entire audience.

Viewers have told Ofcom that programmes made in the UK are important to them. Original content can also help the BBC meet duties under its new Charter, which include being distinctive, creative and reflecting the UK’s diverse communities.

So, from next year, we are requiring at least three quarters of all programmes on the BBC’s most popular TV channels to be original productions, commissioned by the BBC for UK audiences – reaching 90% during ‘peak’ evening hours on BBC One and BBC Two.

There will be new requirements on Radio 1 and Radio 2 to play a broader range of music than commercial stations, and more music from new and emerging UK artists. The children’s channels, CBBC and CBeebies, must respectively show at least 400 and 100 hours of brand new, UK-commissioned programmes each year.

A BBC for the whole UK

The rules are part of a new operating licence for the BBC, published today – the first since Ofcom became the BBC’s first independent, external regulator in April.

Ofcom wants all parts of the UK to be accurately reflected, and invested in, by the BBC.

So, the licence also requires more BBC content to be made across the UK and in the nations.

At least half of programmes on the BBC’s television channels will be made outside of London, with separate minimum quotas for each UK nation, broadly reflecting their population size. We are also launching a review to help ensure that programmes made outside of London  support and strengthen production in the UK’s nations and regions.

BBC One and BBC Two must also, between them, broadcast over 6,000 hours of programmes which are of specific interest to the nations and regions - 95% of which must be made in the areas to which they relate.

And Ofcom will ensure that each of the UK’s nations receives a fair share of the BBC’s spending on network programmes. For the first time, the BBC will be required to spend broadly the same amount on programmes, per head, in all four of the UK’s nations.

Raising the bar for performance

Most of the new requirements raise the bar for what the BBC is required to deliver, rather than simply carry over previous quotas. We have also improved and strengthened some conditions following feedback from the public.

The new licence will:

  • Strengthen news and current affairs rules. We have increased quotas for news and current affairs on BBC One and BBC Two. Also, Radio 2 will be required, for the first time, to air at least three hours of news and current affairs in peak time per week, and Radio 1 to broadcast an extended news bulletin in peak time each weekday;
  • Safeguard arts, music and religious programmes. Our research shows these areas are important for audiences; but some are in decline. So, BBC One and BBC Two will be required to show programmes in these genres, including some during peak viewing times. We are also, for the first time, safeguarding comedy programmes on BBC One and BBC Two;
  • Support a wide range of valued genres. The BBC must support genres  such as drama, comedy, factual programmes and different types of music; and
  • Support social action campaigns on BBC radio. We are requiring Radio 1 to offer a minimum number of major social action campaigns each year. Raising awareness of social issues among younger people and providing a platform on which to engage is one of the key ways Radio 1 can set itself apart from other radio stations.

BBC must improve diversity

All audiences should feel the BBC offers something for them. But Ofcom’s research shows that several groups feel the BBC doesn’t sufficiently represent their interests or lives. Last month, our report on Diversity and equal opportunities in television revealed that many groups are also under-represented in the BBC’s workforce, and across the industry.

Ofcom expects the BBC, as the national broadcaster, to lead the way in addressing under-representation. So, today’s operating licence includes new requirements to ensure, for the first time, the BBC is publicly accountable for achieving its workforce diversity targets. These include 15% of staff to be from ethnic minority groups, and 50% of all staff and leadership roles to be held by women by 2020.

We are requiring the BBC to report in detail to Ofcom each year on progress towards achieving these targets. The BBC must report workforce diversity data for its UK public services, which will exclude the World Service and its commercial services.

The BBC must also measure and report annually on its on-screen and on-air diversity. We will assess whether the BBC is making sufficient progress in serving the UK’s diverse communities, and whether audiences are satisfied.

The BBC will also be required to implement a new Ofcom-approved Commissioning Code of Practice for diversity, covering on-screen portrayal and casting, as well as workforce diversity.

Separately, Ofcom will carry out an in-depth review to understand how well different audiences across the UK are represented and portrayed on the BBC.

Kevin Bakhurst, Ofcom Content and Media Policy Director, said: “The BBC is the cornerstone of UK broadcasting. But we think it can do more to provide quality, distinctive programmes that reflect the interests and lives of people across the UK.

“Our rules will ensure the BBC focuses on original UK content, and invests in vital areas such as children’s programmes, music, arts and religion.”