What Happens to Your Complaint

Every day we receive around 3,000 comments, appreciations or enquiries about our programmes. This is many hundreds of thousands each year, of which over 200,000 can be complaints.

We value feedback about our services and circulate it the next morning to producers and managers. This is one of the most widely read reports in the BBC and means your reaction reaches the right people overnight, including senior managers.

How to complain:

Please complain centrally to us either by phone, this website or by post. If you don’t we can’t guarantee your complaint will reach the right people or that you’ll receive a reply when you write in.

You should normally complain within 30 working days of the relevant transmission or publication (online or in a BBC-owned publication). Your complaint must be about a BBC item and raise one issue. Multiple points can cause handling delays and other complications.

If you call us we summarise your complaint for the production team to read the next day but will not reply in writing. We reply only when you complain in writing, unless we know you need help with a disability. Your complaint should be under 1,000 words.

If you complain online we provide a webform, not an email address, so that we can capture the key information which is needed to manage your complaint efficiently. The process is described in brief below, but for full details of our complaints process please read the BBC Complaints Framework. This followed a public consultation held in 2017.

What happens next:

We compile overnight a report of appreciations, complaints and other comments and circulate it the next morning to producers and managers. We will investigate possible breaches of standards, but in order to use your licence fee efficiently we won’t reply in detail to opinions, comments or questions.

If you complain in writing we post or email over 90% of our replies within 2 weeks. If other people raise the same point our reply may be the same to everyone, both for consistency and efficiency.

It can take longer to reply to other complaints, depending on the issue being investigated or how many others we have. Sometimes a delay may be due to practical reasons. For example a production team may already be working on another programme or have gone on location.

What to expect:

We aim to deal with your complaint fairly, quickly and satisfactorily. We are required by our Royal Charter to have a complaints framework which provides “transparent, accessible, effective, timely and proportionate methods” of making sure we are meeting our obligations and fixing problems. This balances the interests of all licence fee payers with the expectations of complainants and the BBC.

To achieve this means using your licence fee proportionately, so we won’t investigate minor, misconceived, hypothetical, repetitious or otherwise vexatious complaints which do not suggest a breach of standards. Nor do we investigate gratuitously abusive complaints.

Opinions vary widely about the BBC’s output, but may not necessarily suggest a breach of standards or of the BBC's public service obligations. Our reply may not therefore always be what someone might wish, but if we agree the BBC is at fault we will apologise.

If you need help at any stage because of a disability please let us know. We aim to treat you with courtesy and respect, and in return expect equal courtesy and respect to be shown towards our staff. We reserve the right to discontinue correspondence if there is misuse of the service and may if necessary use personal information to stop access to the service.

What if I’m dissatisfied with the BBC's reply?

Please contact us in writing and explain why, either online or by post within 20 working days and quoting your case number. We’ll reply again, this time usually within 20 working days.

If you remain dissatisfied you may be able escalate to the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) at stage 2. If so we’ll tell you how. For full information please read the BBC Complaints Framework.

Escalations and Ofcom:

If you remain dissatisfied after completing the stages within the BBC, there may be a right of appeal to the regulator Ofcom. In the case of TV Licensing complaints this is to an independent ombudsman.

Ofcom will not normally accept a complaint until it has been fully considered by the BBC except if your complaint is about alleged unfairness to you or infringement of your privacy. These issues can be considered first either by Ofcom or the BBC but not by both simultaneously. For more details please visit Ofcom's website.

What does the BBC publish about complaints?

We publish public responses on this website to substantive issues of wide audience concern (or of other significance). We do not publish a public response to every complaint, or to social media and other lobbying or petitioning. We also publish significant Corrections and clarifications.

In Complaints reports you can find:

  1. Fortnightly complaints about programmes, and performance of the complaints service;
  2. Complaints later upheld or resolved by the Executive Complaints Unit (stage 2);
  3. A link to Ofcom’s complaints bulletins about all broadcasters.

Does the number of complaints make a difference?

No. We are always concerned when people complain, but what matters is whether the complaint is justified and the BBC acted wrongly. If so we apologise. If we don’t agree that our standards or public service obligations were breached, we try to explain why. If we come under pressure from petitions, lobbies or the press we defend our independence or other standards when necessary.

How does the BBC act on complaints?

We consider issues raised in complaints against the wider context of benchmarked audience research findings, BBC and Ofcom standards. Opinions about the BBC’s output vary widely but may not imply breaches of standards or of the BBC’s public service obligations. When we agree the BBC is at fault we will apologise and if necessary take steps to avoid it happening again.

The BBC’s Editorial Standards Board meets monthly and reviews any issues arising from complaints. It is made up of senior executives and reports to the BBC’s Board. It ensures lessons are learned and if necessary are taken into account in reviews of the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines, compliance processes or other policies.

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. Generally we consider a complaint to be a criticism which expects a reply and would ideally like things changed, even if we are unable to do what the complainant wishes.

What if I’ve not had a reply?

Please contact us quoting your case reference number.

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

Your complaint is still normally circulated overnight to BBC staff.