What Happens to Your Complaint

Every year we receive over 1 million comments, appreciations or enquiries about BBC programmes, some 3,000 a day. Over 250,000 can be complaints.

We value this feedback about our work. We compile an overnight report of all reaction and circulate it to BBC staff by the next morning (with your personal details removed). This is one of the most widely read reports in the BBC and ensures your feedback or complaint reaches the right people quickly, including senior management.

How and when to complain:

To help us report and handle complaints efficiently, we ask you to contact us centrally. If you do not, we cannot guarantee your complaint is seen by the right people or that you will receive a reply. You can do this using our website, postal address or phone number. To receive a written reply you should normally complain in writing. If you need access assistance please contact us.

If you have a complaint about a BBC item which was broadcast or published, either online or in a BBC owned magazine, you should normally complain within 30 working days of the transmission or publication (there are some exceptions to this time limit so please read the full procedures). Please make one complaint rather than multiple issues which may complicate any investigation and delay our reply. For the full complaints procedures please visit the BBC Trust website. You can also complain to Ofcom – details at Where to complain.

If you complain online, we ask you to complete a webform instead of contacting an email address. This is because we need to capture all the information to classify, report and handle each complaint as efficiently as possible.

What happens next:

We will investigate possible breaches of standards, but in order to use your licence fee proportionately will not reply in detail to other points such as comments, further questions or matters of opinion. For consistency and to minimise costs, if we receive other complaints about the same issue we will send the same reply to everyone and may publish a response on this website or in Corrections and clarifications.

We email or post over 90% of replies within 2 weeks (10 working days) but cannot always guarantee this. It will also depend on what your complaint is about, how many others we have and practical issues such as whether a production team is on location or otherwise away.

If you are dissatisfied with our reply you should re-contact us in writing within 20 working days explaining why. You may be able to take the issue further to stage 2 and if so we will explain how. This is normally either to the independent Editorial Complaints Unit or relevant senior management. We publish the findings of complaints upheld or resolved by the Editorial Complaints Unit and those considered at stage 3 on appeal by the BBC Trust in Complaints reports.

In order to use your licence fee proportionately we do not investigate minor, misconceived, hypothetical, repetitious or otherwise vexatious complaints which have not suggested evidence of a breach of standards, or are gratuitously abusive or offensive. When handling your complaint we will treat you courteously and with respect. We expect you to show equal courtesy and respect towards our staff and reserve the right to discontinue correspondence if you do not, and in some cases we may use your personal information to stop such behaviour.

More details:

The BBC Trust upholds standards and represents the interests of licence payers and full details of the complaints procedures are available on the BBC Trust website. Please scroll down for further information and answers about the handling of complaints.

Further information about the complaints service

What does the BBC do with my complaint?

We analyse all complaints overnight and also take into account other reaction, audience research and BBC Editorial Guidelines. People have different views or expectations about programmes which can differ from our editorial standards or the public service obligations we must meet. So our reply to a complaint may not always be what someone might wish. But if we get something wrong we will apologise and, if necessary, take steps to avoid it happening again.

How does the BBC act on complaints?

The BBC's Complaints Management Board meets monthly to review issues arising from complaints, BBC Trust or Ofcom findings and other broadcasting developments. Chaired by the Chief Complaints Advisor it is made up of senior executives and ensures lessons are learned and fed into BBC Editorial Guidelines and compliance processes. It reports to the BBC's Editorial Standards Board. The BBC Trust is the BBC's governing body which holds the Executive to account and represents the interests of licence payers. It monitors editorial standards, compliance and complaints handling. It reports on these in its Annual Report to licence payers and on the BBC Trust website.

What if I remain dissatisfied with the BBC's reply?

You should re-contact us in writing within 20 working days quoting any case number and explaining why. You may be able to take the issue to stage 2 and if so we will explain how. This is normally either to the independent Editorial Complaints Unit or higher management. For the full complaints procedures please visit the BBC Trust website.

Do the numbers of complaints make a difference?

No. We are always concerned about high numbers, but what matters is whether the complaint is justified and the BBC acted wrongly. If so we will apologise. If we do not believe we breached our public service obligations or Editorial Guidelines we will explain why. We sometimes come under pressure from organised lobbies or the press but defend our editorial independence and standards as necessary.

How does the BBC define a complaint?

It isn't possible to define the difference between a comment and complaint. If you say it is a complaint we count it as one. We generally consider a complaint to be a criticism which expects a reply and would ideally like things changed, even if we are unable to respond as the complainant might wish.

What does the BBC publish about complaints?

We publish public responses to issues of wide audience concern if they cause significant numbers of complaints or raise a significant issue. We do not publish public responses to every single complaint. Our responses are available in Complaints reports for up to six months and include any explanation, apology or action taken as a result. In Complaints reports we also publish:

  1. monthly summaries of the main editorial complaints received at stage 1
  2. findings of editorial complaints later upheld or resolved by the Editorial Complaints Unit (stage 2)
  3. findings of subsequent appeals to the BBC Trust (stage 3) including non-editorial complaints

What if I have not had a reply?

Please call us or contact us through this website.

What happens if I opt not to ask for a reply?

Your complaint is normally still circulated to BBC staff to read in our overnight report of reaction.

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