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Ofcom’s report says neutrality remains a ‘complex challenge’ for the BBC


Neutrality remains a “complex challenge” for the BBC, an Ofcom report found, while warning it must become more transparent and work harder to appeal to poorer parts of society.

According to the annual media censorship report on the company, which it has carried out since 2017, the public has ‘consistently ranked the BBC less favourably’ in terms of integrity.

In the 2020-2021 report, complaints about the BBC to Ofcom were also said to have more than tripled since 2017-2018, jumping from 1,673 four years ago to 5,429 this year.

Although the proportion of these issues relating to neutrality remained stable at around 30 per cent, Ofcom warned that the BBC had experienced “historic failures” over the past year.

Kevin Bakhurst, director of broadcast and online content group Ofcom, said: ‘The BBC continues to be highly regarded by the public and has made a clear and positive contribution during the pandemic.

But the past year has also seen its reputation damaged by historical failures, with some viewers and listeners questioning its impartiality, and others feeling left out.

“The BBC must dare to be different, to expand its appeal to viewers and listeners of all backgrounds, classes, cultures, ages or locations.”

According to Ofcom’s annual report on the company, which it has carried out since 2017, the public has ‘consistently ranked the BBC less favourite’ in terms of neutrality.

It comes after the BBC revealed last month its plans for a “biggest and most significant push” to ensure its content is fair, accurate and unbiased in response to the broadcaster’s Serota Review posting on Governance and Culture, which made a number of recommendations on improving editorial standards.

In October, BBC Director General Tim Davie appointed a group of outside experts in an effort to deal with accusations of bias.

Experts are said to analyze all of the BBC’s content for signs of neutrality – covering everything from news to CBeebies.

Davy had already cracked down on the issue by placing controls on employees who share views on social media and emphasizing neutrality in news roles, according to The Telegraph.

External experts will be appointed by the BBC to ensure that its content is unbiased.  BBC Director-General Tim Davy (pictured) has decided to tackle the accusations of bias

External experts will be appointed by the BBC to ensure that its content is unbiased. BBC Director-General Tim Davy (pictured) has decided to tackle the accusations of bias

By the numbers: The BBC has a positive outlook among the public, and demand for the streaming service is growing – but it is struggling in Scotland and among less affluent families

These are the key points from the BBC’s Ofcom Annual Report 2020-2021, in numbers:

  • 58 per cent of the UK have a favorable view of the BBC
  • But only 49 per cent have a favorable view of Scotland, the lowest of any category measured
  • 64 per cent of Londoners have a favorable view of the BBC, as do 63 per cent of the wealthiest viewers
  • This drops to 53 percent among the disabled and viewers from poor backgrounds
  • The BBC received 5,429 complaints this year, up from 1,673 four years ago.
  • 30 per cent of complaints relate to alleged bias or neutrality – a percentage that has remained constant since 2017
  • More children aged 11-16 use Netflix (77 per cent) compared to BBC TV, Radio and Online services combined (74 per cent)
  • 16-34-year-olds spend just over an hour on the BBC each day – compared to two hours and 23 minutes for their older counterparts
  • 90 percent of adults use the BBC services every week, and that percentage drops to 80 percent among 15-24 year olds
  • The BBC’s iPlayer streaming service saw a 28 per cent increase in usage from the previous year
  • The BBC spent £ 1.01 billion on original TV content for the first time in 2020 – a figure that has been gradually declining since the £ 1.6 billion spent in 2010
  • The BBC’s total income has fallen by 4.5 per cent in real terms since 2017/2018

The Ofcom report said: “Every year since 2017, the public has rated the BBC highly for confidence and accuracy in news output.

“However, our research for the public also shows that the concept of neutrality is still an area where the public is less favorable towards the BBC.”

However, it did acknowledge that some of these ratings may stem from a general dislike of some members of the audience for the broadcaster, while the effects of the changes made last month likely won’t be apparent until next year’s report.

The report also warned that the BBC needed to represent and portray people from poor backgrounds and Scotland, where it is not very popular.

Only 49 per cent of Scots told Ofcom they had a “positive” view of the BBC, the only category in which opinion is in the minority.

It comes as the 2020-2021 report finds it has failed to meet the northern country’s spending target, allocating 6.5 per cent of its spending to Scotland, instead of the required 8 per cent.

Meanwhile, only 53 per cent of people with disabilities and people from poor backgrounds had a positive view of the BBC.

However, it is more liked in London and among people from wealthier backgrounds, with ratings of 64 per cent and 63 per cent respectively.

Across the UK, on ​​average, 58 per cent of people view the BBC favorably.

Ofcom said: “The BBC needs to improve how it represents and portrays the least satisfied groups and must ensure that its workforce is more representative of people from different backgrounds.

“These are critical to the BBC’s long-term success.”

If the audience does not see people like them on screen, or people from where they live, they are less likely to come into contact with the BBC and use it regularly, Ofcom warned, adding: “The BBC has a duty to serve, to think and to represent people in All over the UK.

The regulator also called on the broadcaster to be more transparent ‘given its importance’ to many people in the UK, particularly ‘in how it explains its decisions to the public, how it engages with the industry on proposed changes to its services, and in reporting’.

She added: “We have seen some improvements in recent years, but there is more to go; it is critical that the BBC hold itself accountable by clearly defining how to implement its strategies, measuring their success and reporting on their effectiveness.

A statement from the BBC said: ‘We are pleased that Ofcom recognizes that the BBC continues to fulfill its mission through popularity with audiences, offering a wide range of programmes, investing heavily in the UK’s creative sector and delivering trusted news.

The report is clear that more people consider the BBC to be impartial than any other radio station, and we’ve outlined how we want to improve this even further with a clear 10-point plan to raise standards.

“We have also committed to better representing and reflecting communities through our ambitious ‘across the UK’ plans and providing all audiences with great value and great original content.”

The relaunch of BBC Three on TV is set to play a major role in the new BBC’s plans, after Ofcom made it clear that 75 per cent of its programming must be original content from the UK.

The watchdog also hopes the channel will help reach younger audiences.

It comes as the report showed that more children aged 11-16 use Netflix (77 per cent) than the BBC’s TV, radio and internet services combined (74 per cent).

Meanwhile, 16-34-year-olds spend just over an hour on the BBC per day – compared to two hours and 23 minutes for their older counterparts.



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