Ofcom imposes new requirements on new BBC operating licence

UK regulator Ofcom last week unveiled a new operating licence for the BBC that included new requirements for online services.

Ofcom said that the licence, which comes into effect on 1 April 2023, has been designed to firmly hold the BBC to account on delivering its remit, while enabling it to adapt and innovate in how it delivers content to viewers and listeners.

The licence sets new requirements on the BBC’s online services – BBC iPlayer, BBC Sounds and the BBC website, and also sets broadcast TV and radio quotas covering minimum volumes of news and current affairs, and original UK programmes.

In the wake of recent controversies, the regulator also said that it was imposing transparency as a “core obligation”.

The licence now requires the BBC to make certain content available for online audiences, including for the nations and regions and at-risk programming, and make it easy to discover.

The BBC must also set out the number of hours it will provide on its network TV and radio services for music, arts, religion, ethics and other specialist factual content, comedy and children’s programmes in its Annual Plan.

In all the licence includes more than 70 quotas across the BBC’s broadcast TV and radio services covering music, sports, regional programming and other areas.

Ofcom said that the new licence demands more open, detailed and proactive communication from the BBC about its performance, its plans for its content and services – including any significant changes – and the effectiveness of those changes.

The watchdog said that if it was concerned that the BBC is not delivering for audiences, it “will not hesitate to act”, including imposing additional requirements in the operating licence if necessary.

“We recognise that the BBC needs to adapt quickly to keep up with changes in what viewers and listeners want, and how they get their content. So we’re future-proofing our regulation to enable the BBC to transform and innovate, while safeguarding content that matters most to audiences,” said Kevin Bakhurst, Ofcom’s Group Director for Broadcasting and Online Content

Delivery of local content and news.

“We’ve been particularly disappointed by the BBC’s lack of detail and clarity around planned changes to its services, which has led to a lot of uncertainty for audiences and industry. Our strict new reporting rules will ensure the BBC is held to a higher level of public accountability, requiring it to clearly explain its plans before going ahead, as well as evaluating whether they work.”

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