Trust says BBC has improved complaints process

camera in bbc studio The BBC Trust said complainants deserved a fast and well-handled response

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The BBC has improved how it deals with audience complaints but must make the process easier, according to a BBC Trust review.

Letters and online complaints were responded to "much more quickly", although the Trust said that some complaints sent to BBC Online divisions were not being replied to.

The findings followed the Trust's commission of a £40,000 study by research company ICM, which tested the BBC's new complaints system, introduced in 2012.

As part of a "mystery shopping" exercise between last June and September, ICM submitted 492 complaints designed to resemble genuine complaints, and compared the BBC's responses to those in a similar exercise conducted in 2011.

It found that:

  • Satisfaction with the actual process of complaining increased across all three channels - web forms, letters and phone calls
  • Satisfaction fell concerning the content of responses to online complaints, but they had significantly improved for responses to telephone and letter complaints
  • Improvements must be made in the handling of complaints from people with a disability or special requirements - however the Trust welcomed the BBC's plans to make amendments in this area
  • Improvements are also needed in the dealing of complaints sent directly to BBC programmes and independent production companies (instead of the central complaints hub), some of which were unanswered

Richard Ayre, chair of the Trust's complaints and appeals board, said: "The BBC's programmes and services are loved by millions, but with that comes disappointment and anger if licence fee payers feel that their favourite programme has got something wrong.

"Those who feel strongly enough to complain deserve a response that is fast, appropriate and well-handled, and the BBC should be commended for the improvements made so far."

He added that he expected the Executive to focus on increasing satisfaction with email replies, "particularly as three-quarters of complaints to the BBC are now made via the internet".

The corporation received 217,532 complaints in 2012/13 in the first stage of the complaints process. Around 500 advanced to the second stage, of which 285 were sent by complainants for appeal to the Trust in the final third stage.

A new complaints system was introduced in June 2012 after BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten said the process should be "faster, simpler and easier to understand".

The BBC Trust review can be read here.

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