In a recent statement Ofcom and the BBC announced how they intend to address BBC online complaints. In April 2017 Ofcom took over from the BBC Trust as the external independent regulator of the BBC for the first time in its history. This was set out in the new Royal Charter and accompanying Framework Agreement which came into force on 1 January 2017 and set out how the BBC will operate until the end of December 2027.
As required under the Royal Charter, Ofcom is developing an 'Operating Framework' for the BBC, covering regulation of the BBC’s performance, compliance with content standards and impact on competition. The regulator has issued a number of related consultations covering different aspects of these areas.
The Royal Charter and Framework Agreement also set out Ofcom's role for BBC online material, being content on the BBC website and apps (including written text, images, video and sound content but excluding social media, Bitesize, BBC material on third party websites and World Service content, among other things).
Ofcom has a new responsibility to consider and give an opinion on whether the BBC has observed the relevant editorial guidelines in its online material. Ofcom has no powers of enforcement in relation to this online content, unlike its role regulating BBC broadcasting and on-demand programme services. Ofcom and the BBC recently announced that they have entered into an arrangement setting out how this new responsibility will be carried out – with complaints about online material made first to the BBC and then referred to Ofcom for comment if the complainant is not satisfied. Ofcom has also published procedural steps as to how it will hand complaints about BBC online material.
Ofcom's related press release can be found here.