British politicians have warned the BBC to improve its equal pay structure as well as its digital service iPlayer in a damning report about the British public broadcaster.
Meanwhile, a separate report from regulator Ofcom warned that the BBC must not to be too reliant on international co-productions such as Carey Mulligan-fronted Collateral, as its ability to rely on such deals with the likes of Netflix and Amazon is “uncertain”.
The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee, which is lead by Conservative politician Damian Collins, has laid out its thoughts on the BBC in its review of the corporation’s Annual Report.
It said that the BBC, as a public sector employer, has a higher level of duty to advance equality of opportunity than commercial organizations. “The BBC has failed to live up to this duty. Our evidence suggests women within the BBC are working in comparable jobs to men but earning far less,” it noted.
It has called for a “more transparent pay structure” and must commit to making “substantial improvements to its flawed grievance processes” if it wants to encourage women to come forward with equal pay concerns. This comes after a high-profile gender pay row earlier this year featuring China Editor Carrie Gracie, who accused the BBC of having a “secretive and illegal pay culture” and that it was “not living up to its stated values of trust, honesty and accountability”.
Separately, the committee stated that in light of growing competition from the likes of Netflix and Amazon, the BBC must make improvements to its video-on-demand service iPlayer.
“The BBC and other broadcasters now face competition from large companies such as Netflix and Amazon which have substantial programme budgets and significant resources,” it noted. “In order to compete with the growing profiles of these global media companies, the BBC must focus on what it does best and deliver unique British content. To keep pace with global players, it must push forward with introducing improvements for iPlayer, enhancing its offerings, user experience, and personalisation levels.”
The politicians added that the arrival of streaming sticks and set-top boxes have altered the market, “leaving a large section of the market unregulated with no proviso for the public service broadcasters”. It has called for the government to commit to legislation that secures the prominence of these broadcasters, which also includes ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, on these new digital devices.
The DCMS report comes on the same day that regulator Ofcom delivered its first Annual Report on the BBC. The body has been granted responsibility to regulate the BBC’s performance, assess its impact on fair and effective competition and secure editorial standards in BBC programming.
While Ofcom stated that the BBC is “generally delivering” on its remit, there are four key areas where it needs to “go further”. It called for the broadcaster to embed transparency into its working practices, particularly ensuring “sufficient separation” between the BBC’s public service and its commercial activities.
It also warned the BBC that it needs to take significant further steps to engage young people, continue to improve how it represents and portrays the whole of UK society and maintain its commitment to original UK programmes.
On the last point, Ofcom noted that it needs to be more innovative and take more risks, particularly as it drew a notable decline in the number of hours of original comedy, entertainment and kids’ programming.
It warned that its strategy to co-produce high-profile dramas such as Collateral with SVOD platforms such as Netflix has partially offset the fall in investment but that this kind of funding is largely for programmes with global appeal, as distinct from content which specifically reflects the lives and issues of UK audiences. “Furthermore, the BBC’s ability to rely on such deals is uncertain,” it added.