BBC blasted by Ofcom for lack of plan and youth decline

The BBC is criticised for failing to reach younger audiences and says some viewers don't find themselves represented by the service.

As part of broadcast regulator Ofcom's relatively new role of overseeing the activities of the BBC, its latest annual report on the public broadcaster accuses the BBC of lacking a "clearly articulated plan".

Despite steps taken by the BBC to engage with younger audiences and to better reflect the diversity of the nation, Ofcom slams the broadcaster saying it is "not clear to us, nor will it be to the public, how these initiatives all fit together to form a coherent plan to tackle the concerns that we raised, particularly when any positive effects of these initiatives will take time to feed through to audiences."

The BBC's editorial complaints process is also the subject of strong criticism in the report following the Naga Munchetty complaints scandal, saying the process "lacks transparency".

Youth decline
With the number of younger viewers across the BBC's TV and online services declining, Ofcom reports that BBC Three has seen its reach halve since moving online compared to its last full year of broadcasting. In contrast, ITV has had some success in retaining young audiences, especially through content on its broadcast channel ITV2.

However the BBC has reported an increase in the number of requests for BBC Three programmes on BBC iPlayer for all audiences compared to the same period last year, although it's not clear if this has been helped by the extra publicity and newspapear column inches given to shows such as Fleabag when it was shown in a new late night slot on BBC One and whether the extra clicks are from viewers in the BBC Three target audience or not.

Ofcom also says its research confirms that some audiences stay away from the BBC because they don't see themselves represented or that the BBC's output is not for them. And in moving BBC Three content to the BBC iPlayer, it appears the BBC have moved it to a platform that BBC Three's target audience don't like.

Ofcom said:
When developing its proposals for the BBC iPlayer, the BBC presented research which showed that 16-34s, including heavy users, consistently perceived BBC iPlayer as not being a service ‘for them’, that the content ‘was for older audiences’ and ‘lacked variety’

Critics say some of this should have been anticipated when closing BBC Three, as the channel reached not only a younger, but more diverse audience, compared to the overwhelmingly older, middle-class skewing BBC One, BBC Two and BBC Four, as confirmed in this slide issued by the BBC Trust at the time of the BBC Three closure consultation:

As a result, the regulator is warning the BBC risks losing a generation of viewers.