Section 19: Accountability

Feedback and Complaints

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  1. Editorial Complaints Unit
  2. Editorial Standards Committee of the BBC Trust (ESC)
  3. Keeping Content


Audiences are at the heart of everything the BBC does.  Audience feedback is invaluable to us and helps to improve programme quality.

Our commitment to our audiences is to ensure that complaints and enquiries are dealt with quickly, courteously and with respect. 


The BBC Trust has created a complaints framework, which lays out practices for complaints handling:

  • Complainants should be treated politely and with respect
  • The stages of all procedures will be published on the BBC website so that information about complaints procedures is clear and readily available to the complainant and will be provided on request
  • A complainant/member of the audience who contacts the BBC at Stage 1 with a comment or complaint should be informed in the reply that there is a complaints process and that there may also be a way of pursuing a complaint outside the BBC
  • Any response to a complaint should inform the complainant of the next step in the process for taking the complaint further if applicable and where, if applicable, to pursue the complaint outside the BBC
  • Complaints should be responded to in a timely manner
  • Reasonable provision must be made to ensure that complaints procedures are accessible to all. Assistance will be provided to those who are unable to make their complaint in the usual format and contact details will be provided
  • There should be a presumption that Executive and Trust decisions to uphold a complaint will be reported on. Exceptions to this will be where information is provided in confidence or publication would be inappropriate, for example details of an upheld first party editorial complaint where there has been a breach of privacy or a commercially sensitive complaint. Details about complainants and complaints will be anonymous unless otherwise discussed with the complainant
  • When considering complaints on substantive matters the BBC must provide adequate reasoning for its decision, setting this reasoning within the context of any relevant BBC guidelines.


In practice, the first point of contact for a complaint should be BBC Information, although people can contact editorial managers directly if they prefer.  We are committed to responding to complaints within ten working days of their first receipt and to keeping complainants informed of progress.


A complainant may not be satisfied by the response from BBC Information or an editorial manager.  If the complaint concerns a breach of the editorial standards set out in the Editorial Guidelines or relates to a particular broadcast, programme or specific web content they can appeal to the Editorial Complaints Unit to investigate the issue independently.


The BBC has a Code of Practice for complaints handling which sets out these procedures in more detail. 

Editorial Complaints Unit


The Editorial Complaints Unit deals with serious complaints about breaches of the BBC's editorial standards in connection with specific programmes or items of content.  It deals with complaints about any BBC service or product where the BBC has editorial responsibility.  This includes international, public and commercial services and BBC branded magazines.

If complainants are not satisfied by the Editorial Complaints Unit finding, they can appeal to the Editorial Standards Committee of the BBC Trust. 


When the Editorial Complaints Unit identifies a serious breach of the standards in these Guidelines, its finding will normally be published on the BBC complaints website.  It may also direct the BBC to broadcast an apology or correction.

Editorial Standards Committee of the BBC Trust (ESC)


The ESC may consider any matter which raises questions of a potential breach of the BBC's editorial standards, set out in these Guidelines, including appeals against decisions and actions of the Editorial Complaints Unit and divisional directors in dealing with editorial complaints.  All the ESC's findings are normally published on the BBC complaints website.  It may direct the BBC to broadcast an apology or a summary of its finding. 

Keeping Content


The BBC is obliged by law to keep recordings of all broadcast programmes: television (including interactive content) for 90 days and radio for 42 days. 

The BBC online policy is that we make best efforts to keep a record of the last 90 days of text based output.

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