Ofcom’s Annual Report on the BBC

25 November 2020

This is Ofcom’s third Annual Report (PDF, 6.1 MB) on the BBC, covering April 2019 to March 2020.

The BBC’s Royal Charter requires Ofcom to publish a report each year that sets out how we have carried out our functions as the BBC’s independent regulator, and assesses the BBC’s compliance with its Operating Licence and other regulatory requirements.

Separately, we are required to report at least annually on the BBC’s performance against the measures we set alongside the Operating Licence. This forms the evidence base for our assessment of the BBC’s performance against its public purposes.

In this report, we assess the BBC’s performance in delivering its Mission and Public Purposes, and explain how we have carried out our functions of protecting fair and effective competition within the areas in which the BBC operates, and upholding content standards in BBC programmes.

This report finds that the BBC continues broadly to deliver on its remit through its provision of a significant volume of news and current affairs, a wide range of learning and educational content, as well as high-quality, distinctive and creative content for all audiences across its mainstream and specialist services. Although it primarily falls outside the reporting period, we comment on the strength of the BBC’s response to Covid-19, and its ability to continue meeting audience needs during the pandemic.

The BBC has shown progress in some of the areas where we raised concerns last year, for example it set out its responses to our news review (PDF, 3.0 MB) in its last Annual Plan; we recognise it will take time for the impact of these steps to be clearly measurable. There has also been an improvement in the transparency of the BBC’s workforce diversity information.

However, the BBC faces an ongoing challenge to serve all the UK’s audiences. As we pointed out last year (PDF, 2.4 MB) the BBC is still struggling to reach and retain young audiences, although we recognise that the BBC is taking steps to respond to this challenge. There remain certain groups who are less satisfied with the BBC, particularly people in Scotland, those in lower socio-economic groups, and disabled people. We welcome the fact the new Director-General has acknowledged that the BBC does not deliver to all audiences equally, expressing a commitment to serve all the UK’s audiences.

There are areas where we would now like to see the BBC go further, for example setting out more clearly how it measures the success of its actions to improve representation and portrayal of audiences. We also remain of the view that the BBC needs to set out its plans in more detail, explaining how it will deliver its priorities, as set out recently by the Director-General. We expect to see this in the BBC’s next Annual Plan. As it does this, we want the BBC to improve its engagement with the public and with industry.

This year our report is accompanied by a detailed interactive Performance Report, which presents extensive data on each of the Public Purposes and how well the BBC has delivered them, across the range of the BBC’s services and platforms.

Report

Ofcom’s third Annual Report on the BBC (PDF, 6.1 MB)

Adroddiad Blynyddol Ofcom ar y BBC (PDF, 6.8 MB)

Annex 1: Compliance with regulatory requirements (PDF, 517.9 KB)

Ofcom's letter to the BBC about the BBC's regional news and current affairs, 17 August 2020 (PDF, 193.7 KB)

BBC's response to Ofcom's letter, 19 November 2020 (PDF, 176.0 KB)

Interactive Performance Report

Ofcom's interactive Performance Report on the BBC

Key findings

Some of the key findings from our third annual report on the BBC.