Radiocentre welcomes Mid-Term Charter Review of the BBC


On 26th May the Government published details of the Mid-Term Review of the BBC Charter. 

This important review will look in detail at the BBC’s governance and regulation arrangements, and whether they have successfully enabled the effective delivery of the BBC’s Mission and Public Purposes. On competition and market impact, specific reference is made to the consideration of the commercial radio sector.

The review provides an opportunity for Radiocentre to highlight the current process of consultation over the launch of new services on all platforms, including BBC Sounds, as well as the effectiveness of regulation and governance from Ofcom in ensuring distinctiveness.

The objectives of the Mid-Term Review as set out by Government are to:

  • Examine whether the governance arrangements established during Charter Review 2015/16 and enshrined in the current Charter and Framework Agreement are effective in enabling the BBC to deliver on its Mission and Public Purposes.
  • Examine whether the regulatory arrangements established during Charter Review 2015/16 and enshrined in the current Charter and Framework Agreement are effective in enabling the BBC to deliver on its Mission and Public Purposes and reviewing the evidence as to how ensuring Ofcom can successfully hold the BBC to account.
  • Make recommendations, as appropriate, for changes to these arrangements during the current Charter period, and as necessary, for further consideration at the next Charter Review.

The review will have a particular focus on the following issues:

  • Editorial standards and impartiality: assessing the effectiveness of the BBC’s governance mechanisms (including changes made in the light of the Serota Review) in ensuring compliance with its editorial standards including impartiality requirements, and the regulatory arrangements for the enforcement of the BBC’s content standards.
  • Complaints: the way the BBC handles complaints through its BBC First system, the Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU), transparency of complaints resolution, and Ofcom’s framework for assessing BBC complaints as part of ensuring effective oversight of the BBC and its relationship with licence fee payers.
  • Commercial governance and regulation: whether the governance and regulatory arrangements of the BBC’s commercial subsidiaries ensure the effective functioning of the BBC’s commercial subsidiaries in accordance with its Charter obligations and appropriately support the BBC’s ability to maximise revenue in support of its public service activities.
  • Competition and market impact: evaluating how the BBC and Ofcom assess the market impact and public value of the BBC in an evolving marketplace and how that relates to the wider UK media ecology, including with regard to commercial radio and local news sectors and other content makers and distributors.
  • Diversity: evaluating how well the BBC’s governance arrangements deliver on the duty for the BBC and its output to reflect the entirety of the whole United Kingdom, including how it ensures diverse perspectives and interests are taken into account, and its duty to enter partnerships with other organisations throughout the UK, and also the extent of Ofcom’s regulation of these requirements.
  • Transparency: assessing the way in which BBC governance mechanisms support the BBC’s duty to demonstrate high standards of openness and transparency in the BBC’s reporting of progress against key commitments and performance against the above themes, and the extent of Ofcom’s regulation of that transparency

The terms of reference are here and the Secretary of State for DCMS also published a short Written Ministerial Statement (here) to accompany the announcement. DCMS confirmed that they intend to complete the review within 12 months. Separately, the Government will soon launch a review of the BBC licence fee and the feasibility of alternative funding models in advance of the next Charter, which is due to commence in 2028. An update was also made to the Framework Agreement here.

Following the announcement, the BBC published a statement (here) which highlighted plans to accelerate digital growth in audio and drive listeners to BBC Sounds. Director General Tim Davie also delivered a speech to staff (here) in which he confirmed plans to move R4 Extra to online only, as well as take 5Live off AM by no later than the end of 2027. The BBC also confirmed that they will still have 39 local radio stations across England but will reduce programming outside peak hours when fewer listeners tune in, while continuing local news bulletins throughout the day.

Commenting, Radiocentre CEO Ian Moss said:

“We welcome the mid-term review of the BBC Charter and will take the opportunity to highlight the importance of strong external regulation for the BBC in the UK radio market in which it is dominant. It is important that regulatory conditions for BBC radio services are not diluted and drive the BBC to deliver distinctive output.”

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