BBC 'welcomes' Ofcom report which hints at regional output cuts

The BBC told the Irish News that it welcomes changes mooted in an Ofcom report which it says "reflect the need for the our regulation to evolve for the digital age"
Gary McDonald Business Editor

THE BBC says it “welcomes” a wide-ranging Ofcom report setting out new commitments and changes to local radio and news channels.

That's despite fears that a new modernised BBC operating licence may lead to a significant reduction in Northern Ireland-produced output, which in turn will impact on independent production companies.

And as reported in the Irish News, it may ultimately also lead to further jobs at BBC NI, which has around 600 staff.

A 174-page report from Ofcom referred to reduced BBC output quotas across the UK, which would have a greater impact on regions like Northern Ireland.

Indeed in its response to the report, Ofcom's NI advisory committee said: "The reality is that the BBC currently hugely over-delivers against its quotas – so if they go from the current level to the new permitted level, it’s a more than 60 per cent reduction here."

In response to the Irish News article, a BBC spokesperson told us: “We welcome these changes, which reflect the need for the BBC’s regulation to evolve for the digital age so we can best serve audiences with impartial news and distinctive UK content in a fast-changing global market.

“We are committed to transparency and will set out how we plan to deliver for audiences in the year ahead in our upcoming annual plan.”

That annual plan, due to be released in the coming days, is seen as an essential part of the broadcaster's accountability to licence fee payers and is a key document in the relationship between the BBC and regulator Ofcom.

The plan provides a framework on which the BBC can be judged as to whether it has delivered on its mission and public purposes.

A senior media executive in Belfast who has worked in regional production for most of his career said of the Ofcom report: “This is without a doubt the most worrying change in regional television ever implemented by a broadcast regulator.”