BBC must do more to connect with people on lower incomes, says Ofcom
30th November 2022

BBC must do more to connect with people on lower incomes – who are under-represented within the corporation and less satisfied with how they are portrayed in its programmes, Ofcom says

  • An in-depth review is being launched into the BBC following an Ofcom report
  • The report said that  ‘some audiences are persistently underserved by the BBC’
  • The regulator also said that disabled people and lower income groups need to be better served within the BBC’s workforce 
  • This follows a 38 per cent increase in complaints between 2020 and 2021

Ofcom is launching an in-depth review into the BBC following a report that showed lower income groups are ‘less engaged and less satisfied’ with the broadcaster.

In the annual report published today, Ofcom said that disabled people and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds felt under-represented within the BBC’s programmes and workforce.

The review read: ‘Some audiences are persistently underserved by the BBC, and this is particularly the case for those in lower socio-economic groups, who are less likely than other audience groups to use BBC services.

‘Across all the Public Purposes these audiences continue to rate the BBC lower than UK audiences overall, and they are less satisfied with the BBC as a whole.

‘As a result, next year we will launch a review to better understand these audiences, their habits, and how the BBC is delivering for them.’

The Ofcom report read that ‘some audiences are persistently underserved by the BBC’

The report follows a 38 per cent increase in UK complaints to the BBC between 2020 and last year.

Ofcom also said that audiences from lower socio-economic groups – which make up almost a quarter of the UK’s population – were less likely to say that the BBC ‘provides a broad mix of content’ for its audience.

The findings show that one in every five people rated the BBC negatively for including ‘people like me’ in its programmes. 

In addition to an ‘in-depth review’ of the findings, the regulator is also asking the broadcaster to set out its overall strategy for improving perceptions among less interested audiences.

The News Media Association (NMA) had also raised concerns to Ofcom about the BBC’s planned changes to its local online news offering.

Assessment of these proposals, which is expected to conclude shortly, will take account of the BBC’s analysis, the NMA’s concerns and Ofcom’s own data sources.

Although the report acknowledged that the audience of BBC broadcast channels is in decline, the corporation continues to reach a wide proportion of the UK population.

It stated that roughly eight in ten people aged 16 or above interact with BBC content each week in the UK and that it reaches 68 per cent of those aged three to 16 on a weekly basis.

Use of its online services such as BBC iPlayer is also growing, with programmes being streamed more than 6.6 billion times on iPlayer last year – up eight per cent on the previous year.

But competition from global streaming services is also adding pressure to the broadcaster’s production costs while the licence fee is being held at its current level until 2024.

The report also announced that Ofcom is giving the go-ahead for the BBC to increase its catalogue of older content on iPlayer, such as past series of returning titles, to allow greater choice and better value for licence fee payers.

The BBC has been contacted for comment.

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