BBC must reflect all parts of the UK, regulator Ofcom warns


The BBC will have to spend the same on programmes per head in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales under new plans outlined by regulator Ofcom.

The watchdog becomes the first independent, external regulator of the BBC on April 3, under the new Royal Charter.

It has announced new quotas to ensure more original, UK productions on flagship channels BBC1 and BBC2 as well as children's channels CBeebies and CBBC.

It also wants the BBC to increase its news and current affairs output.

Ofcom said it wants "all parts of the UK to be reflected, and invested in, by the BBC".

"So we are introducing minimum quotas for each UK nation," the regulator said.

"This means the BBC must spend the same on programmes, per head, in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, as well as ensuring that at least half of all programmes shown nationally and produced in the UK are made outside of London."

The BBC's spending on new, UK-commissioned programmes fell 30% in real terms between 2004 and 2015.

Under Ofcom's new plans, which are under consultation, three quarters of all programme hours on the BBC's most popular TV channels should be original productions, commissioned for UK audiences.

During peak viewing time, from 6pm to 10.30pm, at least 90% of programmes on BBC Two should be original.

During peak periods, Radio 2 would be required to air at least three hours of news and current affairs each week, and Radio 1 to broadcast an extended news bulletin during peak-time each weekday.

Under the plans, the BBC will report each year on how it has reflected age, gender, disability and race.

A Diversity Code Of Practice will set out how the BBC will commission programmes that portray the whole UK population.

Kevin Bakhurst, Ofcom's content and media policy director, said: "The BBC is the cornerstone of UK broadcasting. It should deliver quality content for its whole audience, with programmes that reflect the UK's rich culture and showcase all its talents.

"We have asked viewers and listeners what they value most about the BBC, and our plans reflect what they've told us. We now want to hear the wider views of licence fee payers."

The plans also say a "significant proportion" of the new music played by Radio 1 and Radio 2 should be from new and emerging UK artists.

BBC1 and BBC2 will have "tougher requirements" to show arts, music and religious programmes.

Radio 5 Live will have to provide live commentary, news and programmes of at least 20 sports "to help support those that are not getting the attention they deserve".

CBBC would have to show at least 400 hours and CBeebies at least 100 hours of new, UK-commissioned programming each year.

Ofcom will also review guidance on programmes made outside London to ensure "these productions make a genuine contribution to the creative economies of the UK's nations and regions".

The consultation closes on July 17.