May 30, 2022
The Government has launched a review of the BBC to “consider if reforms are needed to help it achieve greater impartiality and build a more diverse workforce”. The Government says that this first Mid-Term Review, launched at the halfway point of the BBC’s ten-year Royal Charter, will “assess whether current regulations and governance could be improved to ensure it is delivering for licence fee payers”.
The Government has published the Terms of Reference for the Mid-Term Review, which state that the Review will focus on:
- editorial standards and impartiality: assessing the effectiveness of the BBC’s governance mechanisms in ensuring compliance with its editorial standards including impartiality requirements, and the regulatory arrangements for the enforcement of the BBC’s content standards;
- complaints: the way the BBC handles complaints through its BBC First system, and Ofcom’s framework for assessing BBC complaints as part of ensuring effective oversight of the BBC and its relationship with licence fee payers;
- commercial governance and regulation: whether the governance and regulatory arrangements of the BBC’s commercial subsidiaries ensure the effective functioning of the BBC’s commercial subsidiaries in accordance with its Charter obligations and appropriately support the BBC’s ability to maximise revenue in support of its public service activities;
- competition and market impact: evaluating how the BBC and Ofcom assess the market impact and public value of the BBC in an evolving marketplace and how that relates to the BBC’s role in the UK media ecology, including in respect of commercial radio and local news sectors and other content makers and distributors;
- diversity: evaluating how well the BBC’s governance arrangements deliver on the duty for the BBC and its output to reflect the whole UK, including how it ensures that diverse perspectives and interests are taken into account, and its duty to enter partnerships with other organisations throughout the UK, as well as the extent of Ofcom’s regulation of these requirements; and
- transparency: assessing the way in which BBC governance mechanisms support the BBC’s duty to demonstrate high standards of openness and transparency in the BBC’s reporting of progress against key commitments and performance against the above themes, and the extent of Ofcom’s regulation of that transparency.
Following discussions with the broadcaster, the Culture Secretary has also issued a new legal direction to the BBC to make sure it promotes equality of opportunity for people from working class backgrounds.
Changes to the Framework Agreement, which is an agreement between Government and the BBC that sits alongside the Royal Charter, will impose a legal duty on the BBC to follow through on commitments to do more to reflect under-represented people and perspectives. This includes a target for 25% of staff to be from low socio-economic backgrounds, making sure 50% of radio and 60% of TV programme production spend is outside London by the end of 2027, and delivering 1,000 apprenticeships per year by 2025.
In addition, the Mid-Term Review will assess the arrangements of the BBC’s commercial subsidiaries, such as BBC Studios, to ensure they appropriately support its public service activities, can operate effectively and do not create an unfair competitive advantage in accordance with the Charter.
The Government notes that the Mid-Term Review may recommend changes for consideration at the next BBC Charter Review, or it could lead to updates to the Framework Agreement before the Charter Review, which would require agreement between the Government and the BBC, together with Ofcom’s input where relevant.
The BBC will be obliged to report on its progress in its Annual Report and Accounts.
Separately, the Government says that it will launch a review of the BBC licence fee and the feasibility of alternative funding models in advance of the next Charter, which is due to commence in 2028. To read the Government’s press release in full, click here. To access the Terms of Reference and Updates to Framework Agreement, click here.