A Royal Charter (PDF) (Cm 9365) provides the constitutional basis for the BBC. The current Charter began on 1 January 2017 and runs to 31 December 2027. A Framework Agreement (PDF) (Cm 9366) provides further detail on issues covered in the Charter.

Mid-term review launched (May 2022)

Under Article 57 of the Royal Charter, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport can undertake a mid-term review of the BBC focusing on its governance and regulatory arrangements. The review must not consider:

  • the Mission of the BBC.
  • the Public Purposes of the BBC.
  • the licence fee funding model of the BBC for the Charter period.

The review can recommend changes for consideration at the next Charter review, or it can result in updates to the Framework Agreement before then.

The mid-term review was launched on 26 May 2022. A Government press release set out the issues that would be considered:

  • 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, 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 BBC’s role in the 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; and

  • 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.

Mid-term review published (January 2024)

The mid-term review (PDF) was published on 22 January 2024. In a Written Ministerial Statement, Lucy Frazer, the Secretary of State, summarised the review’s “significant recommendations” in the areas of editorial standards and impartiality, competition, and market impact:

Editorial standards and impartiality: If the BBC is to maintain the trust of its audiences it needs to be impartial. While the BBC strives to do this, it can do more. The BBC needs to be more transparent to audiences about how it is delivering its commitment to continuous, long-term improvement on impartiality. We are extending Ofcom’s regulation to elements of the BBC’s online public service material. This reflects that audiences increasingly consume content online and expect the same standards across the BBC’s different services, a change that will also enable Ofcom to better hold the BBC to greater account across its digital services.

Complaints: The feedback of licence fee payers through the complaints system, including concerns about the impartiality of BBC content, is invaluable in helping the BBC deliver its role. Following constructive conversations with the BBC, the mid-term review introduces major reforms that will provide greater external and independent scrutiny of the BBC’s complaints handling. The board will be given a new, legally-binding responsibility in the framework agreement to actively oversee the BBC executive’s handling of complaints. Pre-broadcast editorial policy and post-broadcast complaints resolution will be separated, with the role responsible for leading complaints handling now reporting directly to the director general. The BBC board sub-committee responsible for ensuring that the BBC complies with its complaints framework, the editorial guidelines and standards committee, chaired by a non-executive director, will be given greater powers to scrutinise and challenge how the BBC executive responds to complaints. These reforms will give licence fee payers greater confidence that their complaints have been handled fairly, and that their views have been heard. We also recommend that Ofcom improves the transparency of its decision-making when the BBC has found a breach of its own editorial standards. If the breach is within Ofcom’s regulatory jurisdiction, Ofcom should publicly and clearly record this breach. If it decides not to open a formal investigation into the content against the broadcasting code, Ofcom should clearly explain its rationale in its online bulletin.

Competition and market impact: There must be higher standards of BBC engagement and transparency with competitors. This will ensure that BBC’s competitors are better able to understand the BBC’s plans, and therefore to provide more valuable feedback to the BBC, and where necessary Ofcom, before it makes changes to its services.

The BBC and Ofcom (the BBC’s regulator) must take forward the recommendations and the Government expects “timely implementation”.

Lucy Frazer said the review had also helped identify some of the issues that would need to be considered at the next Charter review:

The Government will, on an ongoing basis, continue to focus on the BBC’s impartiality. At the next charter review we will review the effectiveness of the BBC’s social media guidelines; assess whether BBC First remains the right complaints model to enable the BBC to best serve all audiences; and examine the BBC’s role in the wider market, including its distinctiveness and how the regulatory framework may need to evolve to reflect shifts in technology and consumer behaviour.

A summary document (PDF) gave further detail of the review’s findings and recommendations. Accompanying documents on the review were also published, as was a DCMS press release, Reforms to boost confidence in the BBC’s impartiality and complaints system set out in Mid-Term Review.

BBC response to the mid-term review

In a statement of 22 January 2024, the BBC said:

The Mid-Term Review was designed to look at the BBC’s governance and regulation. We’re pleased the Government’s findings reflect that overall these are working well.

With regard to the BBC’s impartiality, no other organisation takes its commitment to impartiality more seriously. We have well-established and detailed plans to sustain and further improve standards. We know this matters to audiences and the BBC continues to be the number one source for trusted news, with the highest scores for impartiality and accuracy.

During discussions over the Mid-Term Review, we proposed and implemented a number of reforms, including strengthening our complaints procedures, which now form part of the conclusions. We are pleased the Government has fully taken our proposals onboard. We remain committed to continuous improvement to ensure we deliver for all licence fee payers.

The BBC is operationally and editorially independent and we will continue to engage constructively with Government, and our regulator Ofcom, over the second half of this Charter and as we look ahead to a new Charter in 2028. 

Comment on the mid-term review

 Parliamentary material on the mid-term review

  • Culture, Media and Sport committee, The work of the BBC (PDF), Oral evidence from Tim Davie (Director-General), David Jordan (Director, Editorial Policy and Standards) and Leigh Tavaziva (Chief Operating Officer). This included discussion of the mid-term review.



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