Ofcom to launch review of how BBC connects with lower income audiences

Ofcom is to launch an in-depth review of how the BBC connects with audiences on lower incomes after its annual report on the broadcaster’s performance found lower levels of satisfaction among these viewers and listeners.

The newly-published report from the Office of Communications also highlighted lower levels of satisfaction with the BBC in the north.

It states: “This year, our BBC Performance Tracker showed that audiences in lower socio-economic groups (DE groups) [semi-skilled and unskilled manual workers, state pensioners, casual and lowest grade workers and the unemployed] are less likely than AB [higher & intermediate managerial, administrative, professional occupations audiences] to have positive views of the BBC providing ‘news coverage that is impartial – not favouring one side over the other’.

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"We know that the BBC is aware of this issue and is working to identify variations in perceptions of impartiality among different groups, to assist

A chart from the Ofcom report showing engagement by social class.

with commissioning.”

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Ofcom also found lower levels of satisfaction in the north and in Scotland.

"A particular issue we raise this year is that we have found audiences in lower socio-economic groups, and disabled audiences, continue to be less satisfied with the BBC.

"This has been the case for a number of years, and we have also previously highlighted issues with audiences in Scotland and Northern Ireland being less satisfied.

"Those classified as falling within lower socio-economic groups, in particular those referred to as the D and E groups, represent almost a quarter of the UK population. These audiences consume less BBC content and have consistently rated the BBC lower than other audience groups,” the report states.

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Ofcom said on Wednesday these audiences watch, listen to, and browse BBC content – including news – less than the rest of the population, and are least satisfied with how they are represented and portrayed in programmes.

Staff from lower socio-economic backgrounds are also under-represented within the BBC’s own workforce, it notes.

In response to the findings the regulator has said it will will launch an in-depth review into how the BBC connects with audiences on lower incomes.

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“We also want the BBC to set out, clearly and publicly, its overall strategy for improving perceptions among disenfranchised audiences – including how it is drawing and acting on viewer and listener research,” it stated on Wednesday.