Ofcom Wants the BBC to Distribute More British-Made Programming

By Tom Pritchard on at

Ofcom has announced new rules for the BBC as part of a revamped operating licence. Those rules state that the BBC needs to broadcast more content produced within the UK.

Specifically it needs to show 75 per cent British-made content on BBC One, Two, and Four, though during peak hours (18.30 to 22.30) that figure rises to 90 per cent on BBC One and Two. This pretty much classifies as a ban on evening broadcasts of any films or TV programming purchased from overseas.

BBC News and BBC Parliament will need to be 90 per cent UK-produced (I'm not sure why it's not already), while CBBC, Cbeebies, and BBC Alba need to show 72 per cent, 70 per cent, and 75 per cent respectively. Those are all in total, with no quotas for peak-time broadcasting.

The new rules also state that the BBC has to produce half of its content (measured in hours, not shows) outside of London. Ofcom also says its working on quotas for programming developed within Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales. Each figure will be proportionate to that country's population size, which is designed to ensure the BBC is catering to each region and offering them specialised content - rather than just focussing all of its efforts on South East England. The BBC will also need to spend the same amount (per head) within each region.

Ofcom is also concentrating on workforce diversity, making the BBC "public ally accountable" for improving representation on and off camera. Current targets are having 15 per cent of staff from ethnic minority groups, and half of staff and leadership roles held by women in 2020. Progress towards these goals needs to be reported each year for analysis, and "if audiences are dissatisfied, the BBC must explain itself and put in place measures on how it will improve."

Also in the new rules is a stronger emphasis on current affairs, affecting BBC One, Two, Radio 1 and Radio 2. radio 2 will need to run three hours of news and current affairs programming during 'peak time' (sorry, Chris Evans), and Radio 1 will have to utilising its reach to a younger audience by running a number of 'major social action campaigns' each year. That means, according to Ofcom, "raising awareness of social issues among younger people and providing a platform on which to engage is one of the key ways Radio 1 can set itself apart from other radio stations."

Ofcom has also ordered safeguards to protect 'vulnerable' genres like religious programming, music, and the arts, plus comedy on BBC One and Two. It also said that the BBC needs to support a wide-range of "valued genres" including those that have suffered decreasing investment.

While improving representation for people living across the UK is a good thing, the programming quotas seem unnecessarily harsh. Particularly the 90 per cent British programming during peak hours, since damn near everything outside peak hours is daytime TV that tends to be made in the UK anyway.

People do like to watch foreign programming after all, particularly that made in the US. If the BBC isn't showing programming they want to watch, viewing figures will drop. It might not be as major as if that happened with, say, iTV, but if people aren't watching you can be damn sure someone at the BBC will be getting shouted at with demands to know why. It'll probably mean we'll end up seeing a lot more panels shows.

A BBC Spokesperson described the rules as "tough and challenging", bu agreed that they would help create a "distinctive BBC which serves and represents all audiences." Adding, "We will now get on with meeting these requirements and continuing to provide the world-class, creative BBC the public wants."

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