BBC bosses have ordered to publish more information about why it rejects complaints about the impartiality of news output after an Ofcom review revealed deep public concern about how complaints are handled.
Research carried out by the UK’s media regulator revealed that while one in nine people felt they had cause to complain to the BBC, most ultimately fail to do so because they didn’t believe it would make a difference (42%) or be taken seriously (29%).
Ofcom says such concerns “are nearly twice as high for the BBC than for other broadcasters.”
Although audiences rate the BBC’s news highly for trust and accuracy, it rates less favourably on impartiality and 39% of complaints about the broadcaster are about perceived bias with 26% due to a belief that content is misleading.
While Ofcom’s research has found that “different audiences reach diametrically opposing conclusions when judging the due impartiality of the same news content,” it has urged the BBC to do more to understand perceptions about its output and access concerns.
Unlike other broadcasters, the BBC is permitted to handle complaints in-house, with audiences expected to exhaust the broadcaster’s own complaints procedure before escalating their concerns to Ofcom.
Fewer than one in five complainants spoken to by Ofcom said they found the complaints experience “satisfactory,” while over half said they had a bad experience. The regulator says other respondents “were concerned about the tone and detail of response”.
To help boost public confidence in both its handling of complaints and output, the BBC has been ordered to simplify the complaints process and publish more information about how decisions are made.
Dame Melanie Dawes, Ofcom’s Chief Executive, said: “Viewers and listeners tell us they aren’t happy with how the BBC handles their complaints, and it clearly needs to address widespread perceptions about its impartiality. So we’re directing it to respond to these concerns, by being much more transparent and open with its audiences.”