UK media regulator Ofcom is laying out new rules for the BBC, requiring the pubcaster to be more transparent and accessible when buying content and delivering it to viewers.
Ofcom released details today about the Beeb’s new operating license, which comes into effect on April 1. And it comes with a requirement that the pubcaster be more transparent about its performance, as well as its content acquisition and services planning. It also has to provide a record of the effectiveness of any changes it proposes.
The license encapsulates all of the BBC’s services and mandates that the company must detail in its annual report how many hours of content it will provide across all genres, including kids, music, arts and comedy programming. Ofcom will impose more requirements if it’s concerned the BBC is not delivering on its promise to audiences, said Kevin Bakhurst, the org’s director for broadcasting and online content, in a release.
“We’ve been particularly disappointed by the BBC’s lack of detail and clarity around planned changes to its services, which has led to a lot of uncertainty for audiences and industry,” said Bakhurst. “Our strict new reporting rules will ensure the BBC is held to a higher level of public accountability, requiring it to clearly explain its plans before going ahead, as well as evaluating whether they work.”
Ofcom is also issuing more than 70 quotas across the BBC’s broadcast TV and radio services to protect UK-produced content and ensure the pubcaster commissions a higher amount of content in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The new regulations come after Ofcom criticized the BBC last year for not engaging enough with lower-income viewers, which make up 25% of the UK’s total television audience. In its latest report, published in November 2022, the regulator noted that while 68% of three- to 16-year-olds watch BBC content, lower-income families were less likely to tune in and find the pubcaster’s resources useful.
A BBC spokesperson addressed the news in a statement to Kidscreen. “We welcome these changes, which reflect the need for the BBC’s regulation to evolve for the digital age so we can best serve all audiences with impartial news and distinctive UK content in a fast-changing global market,” the spokesperson said. “We are committed to transparency and will set out how we plan to deliver for audiences in the year ahead in our upcoming Annual Plan.”
Updated with BBC statement.
Pictured is Doodle Productions’ CG-animated preschool series Messy Goes to OKIDO, which originally launched in 2015 on CBeebies.