Insights Ofcom announces new, modernised BBC Operating Licence


Ofcom says that the new 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, whose habits are dramatically shifting.

For the first time, the licence sets comprehensive new requirements on the BBC’s online services which are increasingly important for reaching audiences. In particular, the new Operating Licence now comprehensively regulates the BBC’s online services, fully capturing both iPlayer and Sounds. This includes requiring the BBC to make important content, including content for the nations and regions, and at-risk programming, available for online audiences, and to make that content easily discoverable. At the same time, Ofcom says, it is safeguarding important content on the BBC’s broadcast TV and radio services, using quotas to ensure the BBC delivers a minimum volume of content such as news and current affairs, and original UK programmes.

The updated licence also demands a step-change from the corporation by imposing transparency as a core obligation. This follows Ofcom’s concerns about the lack of detail and clarity provided by the BBC around planned changes to its programmes and services. The BBC will have to explain in more detail how it is delivering for audiences. Also, Ofcom says, for the first time, it will have to publicly set out its plans before making significant changes to its services.

Separately, Ofcom has published its decision on the BBC’s materiality assessment in relation to certain proposed changes to BBC Sounds. Ofcom has decided not to require the BBC to carry out a Public Interest Test for these proposals. To read Ofcom’s Statement on Modernising the BBC’s Operating Licence in full, click here. To access Ofcom’s materiality assessment in relation to changes to BBC Sounds, click here.