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Ofcom urges BBC to take more risks

UK media regulator Ofcom has called on the BBC to take more creative risks and target young people in its annual report on the UK public broadcaster, which also found its TV content spending has fallen over the past eight years.

Sharon White

Ofcom, which took over responsibility for assessing the BBC from the BBC Trust last year, said the pubcaster was “generally delivering” its remit for audiences.

However, it said the corporation “must go further in areas such as transparency, taking creative risks and attracting young people,” as companies such as Netflix and YouTube transform the UK’s TV landscape.

The report claimed that over nine in 10 adults consume BBC content each week, with the average person spending two hours 44 minutes with the BBC every day. However, that figure falls to just one hour and 19 minutes for those aged 16-34.

The regulator also found the BBC had used just 60% of its total content budget on TV in 2017/18, compared with 73% in 2010/11.

Audience satisfaction, Ofcom added, was relatively high, with 68% of viewers satisfied with BBC TV, but the body also highlighted a series of areas to be improved upon.

These included improving the transparency of the organisation and “ensuring its public-service and commercial activities are sufficiently separate.”

Ofcom said it has “raised concerns about the governance of the BBC’s commercial activities, which should be more transparent,” but added the pubcaster has said it “intends to enhance transparency in this area.”

Ofcom also urged the BBC to maintain its commitment to original local content that reflects UK stories and to be “more innovative and take more risks – both in the type of UK content it commissions but also how it is made, and with whom.”

The regulator added that “few young people choose to watch BBC3 online” but added that the broadcaster “recognises” that it needs “to do more, and more quickly, to reach young people, who are critical to its future success.” Ofcom also said the BBC should try to better represent and portray UK society.

Sharon White, Ofcom’s chief executive, said: “Viewers and listeners have told us the BBC is generally doing a good job. But it can go further in some areas. We expect the BBC to do more in attracting younger people, being bolder in the programmes it makes, and making original UK programmes that accurately reflect the lives of people around the UK.”

The regulator said it will monitor the BBC’s performance over the next year and report on its progress in subsequent annual reports. Further action will be taken if concerns arise.

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