BBC regulation

29 March 2017

Effective from 3 April 2017, Ofcom becomes the BBC's first external regulator.

As required under the BBC’s Royal Charter, Ofcom is developing an 'Operating Framework' for the BBC, covering regulation of the BBC’s performance, compliance with content standards and impact on competition.

This page gathers together consultations, regulatory statements, news releases and other useful information relating to Ofcom and the BBC. It covers the period from September 2016 when the draft Charter and Agreement were published, until 3 April 2017 when the transfer of regulation becomes effective.

The new Charter gives Ofcom responsibility for regulating the content standards of the BBC’s television, radio and on-demand programmes.

Activity so far...

Ofcom has also published a Review of procedures for handling content standards and broadcast licensing investigations and sanctions. In this statement, we explain the changes we have made to our current investigation and sanction procedures for other broadcasters and notified on-demand service providers, to ensure consistency, where appropriate, with our proposed BBC procedures. This statement was published on 29 March 2017.

Still to come...

Ofcom will in due course publish procedures detailing how we will handle complaints and provide our view on whether the BBC has observed relevant editorial guidelines for its online material.

The Charter and Agreement place duties on Ofcom to consider the impacts of the BBC’s activities on fair and effective competition.

Regulating the BBC’s impact on competition PDF, 92.5 KB

Rheoleiddio effaith y BBC ar gystadleuaeth PDF, 84.3 KB

This document provides a general overview to our approach to BBC competition regulation.

Activity so far...

Statement: Regulating the BBC’s impact on competition: Statement on requirements and guidance. In this statement, we summarise the comments we received in response to the requirements and guidance we proposed in December 2016 setting out how we intended to regulate the BBC’s impact on competition. We set out our responses to those comments and explain the amendments we have made to the requirements and guidance as a result. This statement was published on 29 March 2017.

Consultation: The BBC’s trading activities: A consultation on Ofcom’s proposed requirements and guidance. We are currently consulting on requirements we intend to place on the BBC to ensure that its trading activities do not harm fair and effective competition. Start: 29 March 2017, End: 24 May 2017.

Still to come...

Statement: Procedures for enforcement of BBC competition requirements.  We have consulted on the procedures we would expect to follow in our enforcement of these competition requirements, including how we would expect to handle complaints, carry out investigations and impose sanctions. We will publish our finalised procedures shortly.

Ofcom is tasked with holding the BBC to account in relation to its output and services, using the range of regulatory tools at our disposal.

Activity so far...

Consultation: Holding the BBC to account for the delivery of its mission and public purposes. In this consultation (Start: 29 March 2017, End: 17 July 2017):

  • we set out our proposed Operating Licence for the BBC’s UK public services. This includes the draft regulatory conditions that Ofcom considers appropriate for requiring the BBC: to fulfil its mission and promote the public purposes; secure the provision of distinctive output and services; and secure that audiences in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are well served; and
  • a draft set of performance measures, which will enable us to assess the BBC’s delivery of its mission and purposes.

The consultation also includes two draft procedural documents that will form part of the Operating Framework:

  • how Ofcom will set and administer the operating licence regime and the procedures to be followed, including the procedures for setting the regulatory conditions in an operating licence, and the considerations Ofcom will have regard to in setting regulatory conditions;
  • how Ofcom will set performance measures and the procedures to be followed.

Research: Ofcom BBC distinctiveness research PDF, 279.6 KB . This document is an executive summary of the qualitative market research we have conducted about the expectations which people across the UK have of the BBC, particularly in relation to distinctiveness.

Still to come...

We will publish a full report about our distinctiveness research during the consultation period.

We intend to set and publish the final operating licence by the end of September 2017. The exact timing will depend on the BBC’s interim annual plan, which will be an input to our consultation and on the consultation responses from other stakeholders.

We also plan to publish our final statement on performance measures and procedures by the end of September.

Under the Charter, Ofcom must enforce compliance by the BBC with specified requirements. These include content standards in BBC programmes, competition requirements, and other requirements set out in the Agreement.

Statement: Procedures for handling BBC content standards complaints, investigations and sanctions. This document sets out the procedures that Ofcom will normally follow when handling complaints about BBC television, radio and on-demand programmes, and how we will conduct investigations and sanctions.

Statement: Procedures for enforcement of requirements in the BBC Agreement and compliance with Ofcom enforcement action This document explains our procedures for investigating (i) breaches by the BBC of a range of requirements specified in the BBC Agreement, and (ii) non-compliance by the BBC with enforcement action.

Still to come...

Statement: Procedures for enforcement of BBC competition requirements.  We have consulted on the procedures we would expect to follow in our enforcement of these competition requirements, including how we would expect to handle complaints, carry out investigations and impose sanctions. We will publish our finalised procedures shortly.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has agreed Ofcom’s additional budget for regulating the BBC.

Ofcom plans to deliver its new duties effectively and efficiently, providing maximum value for money and ensuring the BBC meets audiences’ needs.

The funding cap agreed with the DCMS will cover all of Ofcom’s additional responsibilities including required staff, audience research and an appropriate share of common costs. Common costs cover any non-sector specific activities, such as rent and ICT.

The numbers below reflect the maximum extra agreed by the DCMS. The actual cost may fall below this and Ofcom will charge the BBC only for work carried out as it does for all other stakeholders.

  • Financial year 2016/17: £6.5m, of which £2.3m the BBC will pay in 2017/18.
  • Financial year 2017/18: £9.0m.

(Plus the £2.3 million in overheads costs, deferred from the 2016/17).

  • In 2018/19, £8.5m, pending a review of the first full year of costs.

Ofcom has currently recruited 30 additional staff and expects a total of 40 new members in post by April. Preparations are ongoing and, once a firmer view of workload and resourcing has been established, this number could grow – on our current reckoning – by an extra 10 people or so.

1. When is Ofcom taking on regulation of the BBC?

As stated in the BBC Charter, our duties start on 3 April  2017.

2. What is your role?

Ofcom will become the new external regulator of the BBC. Our  job will be to hold the BBC to account.

Our new BBC responsibilities will fall into three main areas:

  • Content standards – including assessing  the impartiality and accuracy of BBC news and current affairs programmes.
  • Competition issues – including the final determination on new BBC services or significant changes to existing services, and ensuring the BBC’s commercial services are not unfairly cross-subsidised by the licence fee.
  • Reviewing the BBC’s performance against its mission and public purposes.

The Government has decided that a new BBC unitary board will govern and run the BBC, and ultimately be responsible for editorial and management decisions.

3. Doesn’t Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code already apply to the BBC?

Yes, but not all of our rules currently apply to the BBC.  Our rules about the protection of children, harm and offence, crime, disorder, hatred and abuse, religion, and fairness and privacy, all apply to the BBC already.

When the new arrangements start, the remaining rules - on  accuracy and impartiality, elections and referendums, and commercial references in programmes, will also apply to the BBC.

4. What  is happening to the BBC Trust?

The BBC Trust will cease when Ofcom takes on responsibility  for the BBC’s regulation on 3 April. The governance functions carried out by the BBC Trust will move to the new BBC unitary board.