How to Complain to the BBC

In general, complaints regarding  impartiality, accuracy or bias in BBC broadcasting should initially be made directly to the BBC.

Complaints to the BBC: 

The Agreement (between the BBC and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport) which also forms part of the BBC’s constitution – together with the Royal Charter – requires that the BBC establish and make public a complaints procedure. The Agreement makes particular note of the importance of complaints associated with its own clause 44 which states that:

“(1) The BBC must do all it can to ensure that controversial subjects are treated with due accuracy and impartiality in all relevant output.

(2) In applying paragraph (1), a series of programmes may be considered as a whole.”

Note: the BBC definition of ‘controversial subjects’ can be found here. The issue of impartiality over time is addressed here and includes the following:

“The appropriate timeframe for achieving the necessary breadth and diversity will vary according to context, but it will not normally be greater than a programme series or a year.”

Complaints to the BBC can be made online, by telephone or by post; details here. There are up to three stages to the complaints process – outlined here.

In May 2012 the BBC Trust published a review of the BBC complaints framework – considered by some to be slow and overly complicated. Its recommendations for new complaints procedures will be implemented from June 26th 2012 and will be reviewed after six months. 

For further practical tips on using the BBC’s Complaints Procedure, see here .

Complaints to Ofcom:

Ofcom is the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries. It operates a Broadcasting Code, the latest version of which can be read here

The BBC’s commercial services (such as BBC World News) are bound by the Ofcom Broadcasting Code. 

At present, the BBC World Service is not bound by the Ofcom Broadcasting Code due to its Grant-in-Aid funded status which will change in 2014.  

The BBC’s domestic broadcasts are bound by certain sections of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code:

    • Protection of under-18s
    • Harm and Offence
    • Avoidance of inciting crime or disorder
    • Responsible approach to religious content
    • Prohibition of use of images of very brief duration
    • Fairness
    • Privacy.

Ofcom has the authority to impose a range of sanctions upon the BBC should it find that the Broadcasting Code has been breached “seriously, deliberately, repeatedly, or recklessly”.

Guidance to the Ofcom complaints procedure is available here