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. These tools include setting enforceable regulatory conditions on the BBC’s UK public services through the BBC’s operating licence; a new performance measurement framework to assess compliance with the regulatory conditions and examine the BBC’s wider performance; an annual report on these performance measures and the BBC’s compliance with the regulatory conditions; and at least two in-depth reviews of the BBC’s performance during the Charter period. We can also conduct ad hoc reviews, where we feel appropriate.
We are conducting a review of the BBC’s news and current affairs output across television, radio and online.
News exemptions for BBC radio during Christmas 2018
In October 2018, the BBC wrote to Ofcom explaining that it had previously offered a reduced news schedule on some BBC Network Radio stations over the Christmas period. This reflects the change in audience listening habits at this time.
The BBC requested a temporary suspension of the news conditions for Radio 1 (condition 2.8.1) and 1Xtra (condition 2.9.1) on the 24, 27, 28 and 31 December 2018, as well as the news condition for BBC Asian Network (condition 2.15) for the weeks commencing 24 and 31 December 2018. For full details of the relevant conditions please refer to page 12 of the BBC's Operating Licence (conditions 2.8.1; 2.9.1; and 2.15) (PDF, 591.3 KB).
The BBC's Operating Licence (PDF, 591.3 KB) anticipated the need for such changes (as outlined in condition 2.16, page 12). Ofcom accepted the BBC's request on the basis that:
- this approach was consistent with previous years;
- BBC News Online would continue to offer users updates on any key breaking stories over Christmas and New Year;
- audience habits and listening patterns over the Christmas period are different to the rest of the year;
- with Parliament in recess and many major organisations either fully or partially closed over the period, the news agenda is generally quieter; and
- it allows the BBC to make optimal use of staff.
As such, over the Christmas period of 2018, Ofcom agreed that the BBC could reduce the number of hours of news across Radio 1, 1Xtra and BBC Asian Network and resume a normal service on Wednesday 2 January 2019.