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Monday, July 4, 2022

Ofcom chief urges BBC to be ‘much more transparent’ with viewers

The head of Ofcom said the BBC needs to be “much more transparent and open with its audience” about how it handles complaints and perceptions of impartiality.

The UK media watchdog is monitoring the broadcaster’s performance as it approaches the midpoint of the BBC’s charter period.

As part of the review, Ofcom tracked audience impressions, interactions and feelings towards the BBC.

Ofcom head Dame Melanie Dawes said: “Viewers and listeners tell us they are unhappy with the way the BBC handles their complaints and clearly needs to change the widely held notion of its impartiality.

“So we are directing him to respond to these concerns by being more transparent and open with his audience.

“The BBC must also adapt quickly to keep up with changes in what viewers want and how they get their content.

“We are doing our bit by adapting our regulation for the future so that the BBC can continue its transformation in the digital age.”

Ofcom’s research found that 11% of adults complained about the BBC last year, the highest among broadcasters but lower than other industries.

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Complaints mostly focused on bias and misleading and dishonest content, with Ofcom’s research finding that the BBC was “more than twice as likely to attract complaints about these issues compared to other public broadcasters,” the report said.

Ofcom added that while viewers rate news and current events highly for credibility and accuracy, they view them less favorably in regards to impartiality.

The report states: “We are now instructing the BBC to change its policy and publish sufficient arguments in cases where it decides not to maintain the proper requirements of impartiality and accuracy.

“We also expect the BBC to warn us in advance of possible serious editorial infringements.

“This will allow us to better understand how the BBC’s complaints process works in practice and, if necessary, intervene early to protect audiences.

“If the BBC does not do this, we will recommend that the government make this a legal requirement.”

Ofcom also offered to upgrade its operating license, which would require more transparency from the BBC; set new requirements for BBC online services and give the BBC more flexibility to adapt and innovate to better serve audiences.

The operating license sets out the statutory terms that Ofcom deems appropriate to require the BBC to fulfill its mission and advance public goals, its website says.

The next consultation on a new BBC operating license is open until 14 September, with a final decision and an updated license expected in early 2002, just in time for it to take effect on 1 April next year.

Culture Minister Nadine Doris tweeted following the release of the report: “Openness, transparency and impartiality are vital to maintaining the credibility of the BBC. The BBC needs to significantly improve its handling of complaints.

“The Ofcom report will be published in the BBC Midterm Review. As our national broadcaster, the BBC needs to get across to its audience.”

The BBC said in a statement: “Like any organisation, we are working to continually improve, which is why last year we published a 10-point plan for impartiality and editorial standards.

“Everyone knows this is an absolute priority for the BBC and Ofcom rightly acknowledges that impartiality is a tricky area, audiences hold us to higher standards than other broadcasters and we have a good track record of following broadcast rules.

“In addition, the BBC has the most thorough and transparent complaints process in the UK media and we strive to be accessible and accountable to our audience. We will work with Ofcom to further improve this system.”

The report comes after the release of the government’s White Paper on Broadcasting, which includes Ofcom’s plans to regulate streaming platforms to “protect audiences” from “harmful material”.

This is also due to the fact that the future of the BBC’s license fee has been called into question. Earlier this year, Dorris announced that the license fee would be frozen for the next two years, confirming that she wants to find a new funding model before the current deal expires in 2027.

World Nation News Desk
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