Ofcom has set out how it will take on regulation of the BBC from next April in the biggest reform of the governance and regulation of the national broadcaster since it was founded.
The regulator said it would utilise “robust enforcement powers” in a “clean break from the old regime” in a paper published ahead of the imminent publication of the final BBC Royal Charter, which details how the BBC will operate in the new Charter period from next year to 2027.
A white paper setting out the new Charter revealed plans to scrap the BBC Trust and proposed the creation of a new unitary board to run the BBC. The board will be made up of a majority of members chosen by the BBC, however, it is expected that UK Government ministers will also have the power to directly appoint members.
Ofcom said: “Ofcom’s new role is to set regulatory requirements that the BBC must meet in respect of programmes and services, to ensure that the BBC’s actions don’t have a disproportionate impact on fair and effective competition, and to hold the BBC to
account where it fails to comply with its obligations. In carrying out our role, we willhave robust enforcement powers. This will be a clean break with the old regime.
“The BBC Trust was responsible for both governance and regulation, Ofcom’s new role will be different – the regulatory system that we construct will reflect our position as external regulator and our experience of regulating the entire broadcasting sector.”
Ofcom added that it would recognise that the BBC is the cornerstone of public service broadcasting in the UK, but said it would not give it special treatment.
BBC complainants will also be able to obtain an independent opinion from Ofcom on whether the BBC has observed editorial guidelines on the content of online material in its UK Public Services, while the regulator said it is also developing a set of tools to regulate the BBC’s performance, including an Operating Licence for the BBC’s UK public services.
The new arrangement hands Ofcom regulatory responsibility for content standards on BBC broadcasting and on-demand programme services including, for the first time, for the accuracy and impartiality of BBC news and current affairs programmes.
The deadline of April next year for Ofcom to take over responsibility for the BBC was pushed back from the end of December after Ofcom reportedly said it was not ready to take on the new role in the timescale.