BBC set to bolster iPlayer library after regulatory approval

UK media regulator Ofcom has given the BBC a greenlight to add more archive content to its BBC iPlayer on-demand offering.

At the same time, Ofcom said the pubcaster was not doing enough to serve audiences on lower incomes and launched an in-depth review to assess how the BBC connects with disenfranchised viewers.

Audiences now can access most programmes on BBC iPlayer for 12 months from the date of broadcast. However, the BBC limits the availability of older programmes according to set volumes set out in its 2019 proposals for the extension of the service.

The corporation now wants to increase the amount of older content on iPlayer by publishing any title in line with its agreements with producers and underlying rightsholders.

After reviewing the plans, Ofcom said that “the proposal is unlikely to have a large audience impact, and that additional viewers will be drawn from across a large set of rivals, so the effect on individual competitors will be limited”.

It concluded that “the BBC may proceed with its proposal to increase the amount of archive content on BBC iPlayer” but cautioned that “the BBC will still be required to consider whether any future changes to BBC iPlayer could have a material impact on competition”.

Low-income viewers

In its annual report of the BBC’s performance, Ofcom meanwhile found that the pubcaster was not connecting with low-income viewers to the same extent as those on higher incomes.

It said it had found that “people in lower socio-economic groups – who account for almost a quarter of the UK population – are less engaged and less satisfied with the BBC”.

While 64% of viewers in social classes A and B had a positive overall view of the BBC, this proportion fell to 58% among social classes C1 and C2, and to 50% in social classes D and E.

While the broadcaster’s share of daily TV viewing time among the AB group stood at 39.8%, this fell to 24.5% among DE viewers.

Ofcom said it would launch an in-depth review into how the BBC connects with audiences on lower incomes and called on the corporation to set out its overall strategy for improving perceptions among disenfranchised audiences.

“Ofcom recognises our investment in distinctive UK content, how we bring audiences together for major national moments and the significance of our trusted, impartial news, which means we’re delivering on our remit and delivering value for audiences,” said a BBC spokesperson in response to Ofcom’s findings.

“While BBC is the most used media brand for low socio economic groups, we know we have further to go both on and off screen so we are commissioning ever more varied content that reflects UK communities and we’ve set a new staff target, for 25% of staff to come from low socio economic backgrounds to ensure we’re serving all audiences.”

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