The BBC needs to come up with an integrated strategy to win young viewers, deliver original British programming, and be more open about how it operates, British media regulator Ofcom said in its second annual report scrutinizing the world’s biggest pubcaster.
Ofcom said the BBC is “broadly delivering” on its mission, has upped program spending – reversing a recent trend – and that audience satisfaction is high.
But the regulator repeated concerns stated a year ago on the Beeb’s efforts to win younger demos, which it says is imperative for the broadcaster’s survival. “If the BBC can’t engage young audiences with its content, it risks losing a generation of viewers,” Ofcom said. “If young people don’t consider the BBC as a core part of their viewing, then it may be hard to encourage them to pay the license fee” that funds the organization.
The BBC must also improve diversity, programming and transparency. Ofcom said progress was being made in those individual areas, but how the efforts link up remains hazy. “It is not clear to us, nor will it be to the public, how these initiatives all fit together to form a coherent plan to tackle the concerns that we raised,” the regulator said.
It has tasked director general Tony Hall with responding to its criticism in the BBC’s next annual plan. Ofcom wants to see a clear plan in place by March 2020.
Ofcom again detailed some of the existential threats facing the world’s most prestigious public broadcaster. Overall, it said, the BBC is reaching fewer people, though it still plays a central role in the lives of viewers in Britain.
In terms of reflecting multicultural Britain on screen, Ofcom’s research showed that some groups continue to be dissatisfied with how they are represented. After a high-profile case in which a BBC journalist was initially censured over comments about Donald Trump, the BBC must also look at being more open about its editorial policy.
Ofcom will also review the boundaries between the BBC’s public-service obligations and its commercial activities, which are executed through BBC Studios. Specifically, it will examine whether the way BBC Studios organizes and reports its line of business provides sufficient clarity.