On Saturday (21 October) the Daily Mail published an article suggesting that ‘shocking figures’ had ‘emerged’ about the number of complaints the BBC received each year. Unfortunately the article omitted some key facts that would give some context to the figures quoted.
Each week over 96% of the UK population use the BBC’s services, and the nation spends hundreds of millions of hours every year watching and listening to our programmes.
Our special role in national life means people pay attention to what we do and equally we value their feedback and thoughts.
Last year we received around a million contacts from the general public which ranged from questions about programmes, ideas for new shows to appreciative and other comments about content people had enjoyed. About a quarter of these contacts were complaints.
The reason that complaints come to the BBC first rather than to Ofcom is because this is the process set out by the BBC’s Royal Charter. The Charter was agreed by the Government and had cross party support. This is not a process the BBC can change.
However we believe it’s very important that we are open to complaints, which is why we have a transparent complaints process which makes it simple for people to register their thoughts. Where we have made mistakes we try to address them swiftly.
On our website, we report each month the total number of complaints sent in with a summary of the significant issues complained about. And our Executive Complaints Unit publishes the findings of those it has later upheld or resolved after investigation.
Despite this the Daily Mail went on to compare the level of complaints the BBC receives to the number of complaints Ofcom receive about other broadcasters. There are a number of reasons why this is a misleading comparison. Firstly the Ofcom figures for other broadcasters doesn’t include complaints made directly to other broadcasters rather than via Ofcom. Secondly our figures include complaints about our nine TV services, 10 UK wide radio services, local radio services and our website - a far wider range of output than most other broadcasters in this country.
The Mail also said that the figures ‘showed the level of dissatisfaction over issues such as left-wing bias, offensive content and inaccuracy’. In fact there is a very wide range of reasons why people complain. For example we often get complaints of 'bias' about the same programme from two or more opposing sides of the many issues we cover, not just ‘left wing’. Other complaints can be about a whole range of issues – the Mail’s own website covered some examples of these a few years ago.
We believe it’s important that everyone can share their views with us, good or bad, about all our programmes and services. We have simple and straightforward ways of doing that and remain committed to listening to all our audiences.