The Charter and Agreement place duties on Ofcom to consider the impacts of the BBC’s activities on fair and effective competition.
As a large publicly-funded organisation, the BBC inevitably has an impact on competition in the wider media market. It may have a positive effect by increasing choice or encouraging sector wide innovation, for example. But in fulfilling its objectives, the BBC may also harm the ability of others to compete effectively.
Ofcom’s role is to assess the impact of the BBC’s activities on competition. We have developed rules relating to different areas of BBC activity that could lead to competition concerns and guidance to explain the tools we will use to protect fair and effective competition in the areas that the BBC operates.
Ofcom has published a letter to the BBC concerning BBC Radio 1’s Dance stream.
When the BBC plans to make any changes to its public service activities, it is first required to consider whether this represents a ‘material’ change. The launch of a new public service, or where a change may have a significant adverse impact on fair and effective competition, is considered material.
In this case, we agree with the BBC Board’s determination that the proposed Radio 1 Dance stream does not constitute a material change. The impact on competitors’ services is likely to be low, particularly given Radio 1 Dance will be online only and contain no new or exclusive content. We will not, therefore, require the BBC to conduct a public interest test and it is now able to launch the service on BBC Sounds as planned in early October.
However, BBC Sounds is a vital part of the BBC’s audio proposition and further changes to it have been signalled by the BBC. We therefore consider now is the right time to consider its market position.
We intend, through a public process, to seek evidence from interested or potentially affected parties in relation to the competitive impact of BBC Sounds. As part of this process, we will also seek to understand the BBC’s future strategy for Sounds. We expect to complete this work by the end of 2020.