Ofcom has told the BBC it needs to be “much more open and clear” with audiences as to how it handles their complaints.
The regulator has been reviewing the performance of the public broadcaster as it reaches the midway point in the current charter period.
It says one in nine people have had a reason to complain about the BBC. However, most of those do not actually make a complaint, with many telling us it would not make a difference or be taken seriously. Crucially, this is twice as high for the BBC than for other broadcasters.
In total, 11% of adults had cause to complain about the BBC in the last year. This is the highest level among broadcasters (6% for ITV, 4% for Channel 4), but lower compared with other industries (21% for online retailers, 15% for energy companies).
“Viewers and listeners tell us they aren’t happy with how the BBC handles their complaints, and it clearly needs to address widespread perceptions about its impartiality. So we’re directing it to respond to these concerns, by being much more transparent and open with its audiences.” said Dame Melanie Dawes, Ofcom’s Chief Executive.
The news is rating highly on trust and accuracy, though less so on impartiality. However, the political nature of the UK is such that Ofcom found different audiences reach diametrically opposing conclusions when judging the due impartiality of the same news content.
Ofcom is now requiring the BBC to change its policy and publish sufficient reasoning in cases where it decides not to uphold due impartiality and due accuracy complaints.
Ofcom also says the BBC needs to keep developing its online services – Ofcom is publishing its thoughts in proposals for a new Operating Licence – the BBC has already set out ideas, and that includes closing linear services. The regulator’s proposals cover BBC iPlayer, BBC Sounds and the BBC Website.
A BBC spokesperson, said: “Like any organisation we work to make continuing improvements, which is why we published a 10-point plan on impartiality and editorial standards last year. Everyone knows this is an absolute priority for the BBC, and Ofcom rightly recognises impartiality is a complex area, audiences hold us to a higher standard than other broadcasters and that we have a good record of complying with broadcasting rules. In addition, the BBC has the most thorough and transparent complaints process in UK media and we are committed to being accessible and accountable to our audiences. We will work with Ofcom to make further improvements to this system.”