Ofcom chief executive Sharon White has urged the BBC to do far more to engage young people as part of the regulator’s inaugural report into the corporation’s activities.
Writing a letter to Tony Hall as the report was published today, White said that the PSB needs to “take significant further steps to engage young people”.
She told the director-general: “As the BBC recognises, it is not currently doing enough, quickly enough, to reach young people, who are critical to its future success.
“It needs to take significant steps to address this issue, to ensure it delivers content that appeals in ways that suit and reflect young people’s viewing and listening habits.”
Ofcom’s Annual Report on the BBC flagged Barb research stating that 16-34-year-olds are spending around 80 minutes per day using the BBC’s services - half the 160-minute average.
It said iPlayer is currently only used by 30% of 15-34s, while “few young people” choose to watch youth-skewing BBC3.
BBC3 was moved online in 2016, in part to attract young viewers, but its progress with the demographic has stalled. The BBC reported that BBC3 had an 8.3% share of 16-34s in the first quarter of 2018, in line with the previous year’s performance.
It cited qualitative research stating that “young people tend to feel the BBC has a focus on older audiences” and that the BBC fails to take enough risks.
White’s recommendation was one of four delivered to Hall. She also stressed the need to ensure transparency, maintain a commitment to UK programmes and to continue to improve representation and portrayal from around the UK.
On transparency, Ofcom’s report accused the BBC of failing to provide adequate information when it stated a number of planned changes to iPlayer earlier this year, including enhancements to user experience, personalisation and supercharged live content.
“This makes it harder for the BBC to understand its likely impact on competition, including on the activities and plans of other UK broadcasters,” the report said. It stated that the BBC had not always provided information in sufficient detail around many of its long-term plans.
The accusation comes on the day a DCMS Committee report urged the BBC to improve its iPlayer offering to stave off the growing threat from the FAANGs.
Ofcom praised the BBC’s approach to marginalised groups on TV but said that a more nuanced approach was still required to “help broadcasters make programmes that feel more authentic to their audiences”.
In its second report, Representation and Portrayal on BBC Television, the regulator said older women feel restricted to a “subset of roles and genres” while there is a feeling that BBC content reflects the lives of middle-class people more than those from other backgrounds.
It added that disabled and transgender experiences tend to be portrayed negatively, leading to a “skewed impression of them and their experiences”, while black African and black African Caribbean people feel similarly.