Broadcast regulator Ofcom has introduced a new requirement and supplementary guidance designed to ensure the BBC communicates more openly and consistently with its competitors about planned changes to its public services.
The new, enforceable requirement applies to any planned changes to the BBC’s public service activities which are likely to be subject to a “materiality assessment” under the operating framework. It will ensure that the BBC’s competitors are informed about such plans in advance, so that they have fair opportunity to comment during the process.
But Ofcom has also indicated that not all changes to BBC services are now likely to trigger further assessments.
Due to the low audience share of BBC iPlayer and BBC Sounds, Ofcom says changes to BBC online services are unlikely to harm competition.
Drop in the ocean: BBC online services
- iPlayer 3% total viewing time
- Sounds 4% listening share
Changes to linear TV and radio stations on traditional platforms are more likely to trigger an assessment. This will result in the BBC needing to provide more information to commercial competitors.
Cuts to BBC linear channels and their output are less likely to trigger a consultation on competition concerns. This type of change is more likely to benefit commercial operators. However, Ofcom would still need to be notified of any planned closures and cuts to services.
Dedicated web page to notify stakeholders of changes
Ofcom says it expects the BBC to provide details of changes it is considering in its Annual Plan. The Plan, which is a regulatory requirement, is usually published at the end of March each year.
Where changes are considered outside of the timescale to be included in the Annual Plan, the BBC has been told to use an “alternative, consistent means of communication to enable potentially affected parties to easily access the relevant information”.
Ofcom recommends the BBC should publish plans on a dedicated page on its website. It says relying only on sporadic and inconsistent means of communication, such as public speeches or occasional blog posts is “unlikely to be sufficient”.
Full details about the changes are provided in a statement issued by Ofcom today.