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BBC ‘not sustainable’ due to disengaged younger audience

By Charlotte Ricca

Ofcom warns BBC could lose a generation of future licence-fee payers

BBC not sustainable due to disengaged younger audience

The BBC may not be sustainable as it struggles to engage and retain younger audiences, an Ofcom report warns.

The annual report by the UK communications regulator assesses the BBC’s performance from April 2018 to March 2019. It said the corporation was “generally serving people well”, but was at risk of a “lost generation” as young people increasingly switch to other services.

Ofcom reported the average weekly reach of all BBC TV channels among 16 to 24-year-olds fell to a record low of 49%.

In addition, BBC iPlayer’s reach of 15 to 24-year-olds dropped from 28% to 26%, while Netflix’s younger audience increased from 56% to 66%.

Sharon White, Ofcom chief executive, said: “The BBC is still a vital, valued part of British culture. But we’re concerned that a new generation is tuning out of its services. So the BBC must set out bolder plans to connect with younger viewers and listeners.”

The report also found 76% of 16 to 24-year-olds use social media for news, or aggregator services such as Apple News or Upday. In contrast, just 23% watched BBC news during 2018, a drop of over a third in five years.

“We want the BBC to broaden the appeal of its news, which some viewers and listeners feel isn’t relevant to their lives,” said White. “And the BBC must find ways to be more distinctive online, where our research shows younger people are passing it by.”

In response a BBC spokesperson said the corporation has a “clear plan in place” to meet the needs of younger audiences.

“This year’s annual plan is focused on BBC iPlayer, BBC Sounds and BBC News Online. All three have grown strongly in the last year. So our plan is clearly working. But we want to do even more for young and diverse audiences and we will set out our next steps in our upcoming annual plan.”

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