How do Ofcom and the BBC work together?

Media watchdog Ofcom operates as a regulator for the BBC and has made its voice heard on a number of issues.

This relationship came into force in 2017 under the broadcaster’s new Royal Charter.

Ofcom was tasked by government under the new agreement with holding the BBC to account over editorial standards.

The watchdog also has a duty to keep an eye on the commercial and competitive elements of the BBC and took over from the internal BBC Trust.

A statement from Ofcom in 2017 said: “For the first time, the BBC will be robustly held to account for doing so by an independent, external regulator.”

It added on the operating framework the BBC must work within, stating: “This sets binding conditions, requiring the BBC to deliver for licence fee payers.

“It is also our job to scrutinise, measure and report on the BBC’s performance.”

Naga Munchetty
Ofcom made clear its dissatisfaction over BBC handling of the recent Naga Munchetty controversy (Ian West/PA)

It has weighed in on several issues since it was made external regulator.

Late in 2017, the watchdog said “the BBC should lead the way” on diversity and called for a “step change” across the broadcast industry.

In 2018, it blocked the BBC’s plans to expand its iPlayer service in order to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon, due to concerns over “a risk that this increase in viewing to BBC iPlayer could come at the expense of its competitors”.

The BBC was eventually given the go ahead earlier this year to expand its iPlayer service and the length of time content was made available.

Younger generations are increasingly tuning out of BBC services. So we’re calling on the BBC to do much more to connect with wider audiences. More in our annual report and review of the BBC’s news and current affairs, published today: https://t.co/Uw8O0nTbJopic.twitter.com/nrYz88uA5B

— Ofcom (@Ofcom) October 24, 2019

Ofcom recently made clear its dissatisfaction over BBC handling of the Naga Munchetty controversy, following the censure of the presenter over comments made about Donald Trump.

In October, the watchdog published correspondence between the BBC and itself following what they said was a “lack of transparency” from the broadcaster.

Ofcom said it had “serious concerns” about transparency in the BBC’s complaints process after the broadcaster failed to publish the reasoning for its initial decision over Munchetty, and the director-general’s move to reverse it.

Ofcom has also backed the BBC, saying in July 2019 that the corporation and other public broadcasters deserve greater prominence on TV guides, despite competition from commercial rivals.

The regulator has published its second annual report on the BBC in which it highlights the corporation’s need to engage younger audiences more and the report has called for greater transparency in the BBC’s editorial complaints process.

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