Ofcom outlines plans for regulating the BBC’s performance

29 March 2017

Ofcom has today published detailed proposals on how it will regulate the BBC’s performance under its new Royal Charter, which outlines how it should deliver for audiences.

Ofcom becomes the first independent, external regulator of the BBC on 3 April. Our role is to hold the Corporation to account against the delivery of its public purposes, while its new unitary board will govern and run the BBC.

We will carefully monitor the BBC through annual performance reviews, a ‘health check’ halfway through the new 11-year Charter, and scrutiny of the BBC’s forthcoming annual plan on how it will fulfil its requirements.

The new Charter sets clear objectives for the BBC to serve audiences, and puts a sharpened focus on distinctive, creative and high quality programmes.

Our draft ‘operating licence’, published today, sets clear requirements on the BBC that are achievable and affordable within existing licence fee funding, and which will uphold the quality of the BBC’s programmes.

We expect the licence requirements to evolve over time, to reflect the BBC’s commitments and the changing needs and tastes of its audience.

Meeting audience’s needs

To put viewers and listeners at the heart of our regulation, we have carried out in-depth research to gauge what people want and expect from the BBC’s programmes and services.

We expect the BBC to focus on the things audiences have told us they value most. These include news, children's programmes, and programmes made specifically for UK audiences which reflect the full diversity of the UK.

In some cases, where the BBC has exceeded its previous targets, Ofcom plans to raise these requirements closer to the BBC’s current performance – providing safeguards to ensure the BBC’s performance does not fall below what’s acceptable in future.

Ofcom’s proposals

Programmes made for UK audiences: The BBC’s spending on brand new UK commissioned programmes fell 30% in real-terms between 2004 and 2015. Therefore, we are proposing quotas for first-run UK originations programmes to be shown on BBC One, BBC Two, CBeebies and CBBC.

Under our plans, three quarters of all programme hours on the BBC’s most popular TV channels should be original productions, commissioned for UK audiences. During ‘peak’ viewing time – from 6pm to 10.30pm – at least 90% of programmes on BBC Two should be original, matching the current requirement for BBC One (see table below).

News and current affairs: We plan to increase the previous requirements for news and current affairs – including for BBC One and BBC Two – where they have been exceeded, to safeguard this important genre. During peak listening periods, Radio 2 would be required, for the first time, to air at least three hours of news and current affairs per week, and Radio 1 to broadcast an extended news bulletin in peak-time listening each weekday. Neither station currently has these obligations during peak listening hours.

Music: The BBC plays a unique role in showcasing musical talent and genres to people across the country. Our rules would mean a significant proportion of the new music played by Radio 1 and Radio 2 should be from new and emerging UK artists. Radio 3 should continue to play a central role in supporting the UK’s classical music scene, commissioning at least 25 new musical works each year, and developing relationships with non-BBC UK orchestras, opera companies and festivals.

Arts and learning: Our plans would mean that BBC One and BBC Two would have tougher requirements for showing arts, music and religious programmes, including new requirements to show some during peak viewing times.

Children: New rules would require CBBC to show at least 400 hours – and CBeebies at least 100 hours – of brand new UK commissioned programming each year. CBeebies would have to provide content in a number of genres that support pre-school children’s learning.

Sport: The BBC should provide distinctive sports coverage for fans in all the UK’s nations. Ofcom’s research found that people want the BBC to cover a wide range of sports. So we will require Radio 5 Live to provide live commentary, news and programmes covering at least 20 sports, to help support those that are not getting the attention they deserve.

Reflecting the whole UK: Ofcom wants all parts of the UK to be reflected, and invested in, by the BBC. So we are introducing minimum quotas for each UK nation. This means the BBC must spend the same on programmes, per head, in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, as well as ensuring that at least half of all programmes shown nationally and produced in the UK are made outside of London.

Also, we will soon review our guidance on programmes made outside London, to ensure these productions make a genuine contribution to the creative economies of the UK’s nations and regions, which could include greater programme making or investment in these areas.

There would be a new Diversity Code of Practice to set how the BBC will commission programmes that authentically portray the whole UK population. And the BBC will have to report annually on how it has reflected, represented and served the diverse communities of the whole UK – focusing on age, gender, disability and race, among other characteristics.

Kevin Bakhurst, Ofcom’s Content and Media Policy Director, said: “The BBC is the cornerstone of UK broadcasting. It should deliver quality content for its whole audience, with programmes that reflect the UK’s rich culture and showcase all its talents.

“We have asked viewers and listeners what they value most about the BBC, and our plans reflect what they’ve told us. We now want to hear the wider views of licence fee payers.”

High programme standards

To hold the BBC’s programmes to the highest standards, Ofcom has today published updates to the Broadcasting Code – the rulebook for UK broadcasters which sets standards for the content of programmes.

Today’s changes will see that, for the first time, the Code applies in full to BBC broadcasting services and the iPlayer.

Next steps

Today’s consultation closes on 17 July. We will consider everybody’s feedback before publishing a final framework and operating licence by the autumn. We expect the BBC to take account of our draft Operating Licence to be reflected in its own creative plan.

NOTES TO EDITORS

1.

Proposed requirements for BBC original productions

Existing requirements
shown in brackets

The BBC must ensure the following proportions of its channels’ total programme hours are original productions, commissioned by the BBC to be shown in the UK

The BBC must ensure these proportions of its channels’ programme hours during peak (6-10.30pm) are original productions, commissioned by the BBC to be shown in the UK

BBC One

75% (70%)

90% (90%)

BBC Two

75% (70%)

90% (80%)

BBC Four

75% (70%)

60% (50%)

BBC Parliament

90% (90%)

-

BBC News Channel

90% (90%)

-

CBBC

72% (70%)

-

CBeebies

70% (70%)

-

BBC Alba

75% (new requirement)

-

3. Some of today’s proposed conditions relate to calendar years, others to financial years. We are proposing that the former group will come into effect on 1 January 2018, and the latter on 1 April 2018.

4. Further information on Ofcom’s preparations for regulating the BBC can be found at ofcom.org.uk/bbc