Ofcom Outlines Plans for Regulating BBC Performance


LONDON: Ofcom has issued a set of proposals for regulating the performance of the BBC, including new quotas for U.K.-originated programs.

Ofcom becomes the first independent, external regulator of the pubcaster on April 3. Its mandate is to “hold the Corporation to account against the delivery of its public purposes, while its new unitary board will govern and run the BBC.” Ofcom says it will conduct annual performance reviews, a “health check” halfway through the new 11-year Charter and scrutinize the BBC’s new plan for fulfilling its requirements.

A core focus of the proposals is U.K.-originated content. Ofcom says that the BBC’s spending on brand-new U.K.-commissioned programs fell by 30 percent between 2004 and 2015. The regulator has proposed new quotas for first-run U.K. originations programs on BBC One, BBC Two, CBeebies and CBBC. Under the plan, 75 percent of all program hours on BBC One, BBC Two and BBC Four should be original productions, commissioned for U.K. audiences. From 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. (peak), at least 90 percent of BBC Two’s shows should be original, in line with the current requirements at BBC One. CBBC must show at least 400 hours, and CBeebies at least 100 hours, of brand-new U.K.-commissioned programming each year.

Ofcom is also aiming to increase the requirements for news and current affairs. In addition, BBC One and BBC Two would have more stringent requirements for showing arts, music and religious programs, including new requirements to show some during peak viewing times.

The regulator is also setting minimum quotes for each U.K. nation: the BBC must spend the same on programs, per head, in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Plus, at least half of all programs shown nationally and produced in the U.K. must be made outside of London.

A new Diversity Code of Practice will set guidelines on how the BBC will commission programs that reflect the whole U.K. population. The BBC will have to report every year on how it has reflected, represented and served diverse communities across age, gender, disability and race, among other characteristics.

“The BBC is the cornerstone of U.K. broadcasting,” said Kevin Bakhurst, Ofcom’s content and media policy director. “It should deliver quality content for its whole audience, with programs that reflect the U.K.’s rich culture and showcase all its talents. We have asked viewers and listeners what they value most about the BBC, and our plans reflect what they’ve told us. We now want to hear the wider views of license fee payers.”

In addition, Ofcom has updated the U.K.’s Broadcasting Code, which will now also apply to the iPlayer.

It is seeking consultation on its BBC proposals through July 17 and plans to publish a final framework and operating license in the fall.