Ofcom is set to review the BBC’s news and current affairs output to ensure it remains a relevant and “trusted destination for audiences” in today’s “complex and rapidly changing” news environment, it has said.
The broadcast regulator said the BBC must ensure it dedicates enough resources to maintain its position as a trusted and impartial news provider as national debates become more polarised.
In its first annual report on the BBC, which was self-regulated until April last year, Ofcom said the review will inform its verdict on whether the BBC has delivered on its first public purpose under the Royal Charter: “To provide impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them.”
The review will particularly look at the BBC’s depth of analysis and range of content as well as the “tools and techniques” the corporation uses to deliver impartiality.
Ofcom said BBC news and current affairs output is performing well “in many respects” as it is the most-used source of news across TV, radio and online platforms.
More than seven in ten (73 per cent) of those surveyed in Ofcom’s latest News Consumption in the UK report rated the BBC highly for providing high-quality, trustworthy and accurate news.
Meanwhile more than eight in ten (83 per cent) rated its current affairs TV programmes highly for providing high-quality commentary, investigative journalism, and for helping them understand what is going on in the world.
However, Ofcom said it had noted an increase in the proportion of panel-style current affairs programmes shown on BBC TV which it said “do not tend to reflect in-depth investigative journalism”.
Bias at the BBC
“In addition, we are concerned that the BBC has also more than halved the hours of This World, its only dedicated international current affairs show.
“The BBC has a particular responsibility here, given its remit, and can provide an important counterbalance to news accessed through social media.
“We think there is value in looking further at how the BBC provides depth of analysis and range of content in its news and current affairs across its TV, radio and online platforms.”
Just 61 per cent of regular BBC News TV viewers rated its news output highly for providing impartial news, the Ofcom report added.
It said the BBC “needs to lead the way in providing trustworthy news and current affairs content across all platforms, to help UK audiences engage effectively with the world around them”.
“The current news environment makes this challenging,” Ofcom said.
“As national debates become more polarised, it becomes harder for broadcasters to be seen to be accurate and impartial. The BBC has to ensure that it devotes the appropriate resources to maintain its position.”