FEWER people believe the BBC to be an impartial broadcaster than ever before, with the corporation’s news output falling below Sky, ITV/STV, Channel 5, and Channel 4 in the latest Ofcom report.

The results make the BBC the lowest-ranked channel in the UK, with just five in 10 Scots believing it succeeds in “providing impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them”.

Trust in the BBC is slightly higher in the other UK nations, with six in 10 people in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland saying the BBC succeeds in that task.

According to Ofcom’s BBC Performance Tracker, only 54% of UK adults agree that the BBC provides news that is impartial.

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However, separate research comparing the BBC to other UK broadcasters found that 58% of people thought the corporation was impartial. This is compared to Sky’s 69%, Channel 4’s 66%, ITV/STV’s 63%, and Channel 5’s 61%.

Perception of the trustworthiness of the BBC’s news output also varied across the socio-economic spectrum.

The Ofcom report found that 60% of people in the higher AB socio-economic group thought the corporation was impartial, compared to just 49% in the lower CD group.

This pattern remains across opinions of informativeness and representation of a wide range of views, with the AB group consistently scoring the BBC higher than the CD group. The corporation “needs a plan to better serve these [CD group] audiences”, the report says.

The National: The BBC's overall reach has declined across all age groups. Graphics source: OfcomThe BBC's overall reach has declined across all age groups. Graphics source: Ofcom

BBC One remains the UK’s first choice for news, with 56% of people saying they regularly use the platform. ITV/STV, the second most consumed news source, is used by 41% of UK adults, while the third most used source, Facebook, attracts 34% of UK adults.

However, while Facebook and ITV/STV have returned steady scores over the last three years, BBC One has seen a drop of 6%.

North of the Border, BBC Scotland has a very small audience share, with just 15.5% of Scots saying they spend at least fifteen minutes a week watching the channel during its broadcast hours of 7pm and midnight.

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However, the report says that the launch of the channel has had a positive impact on Scotland’s opinion of the BBC on the whole.

It found that 73% of Scots who watch BBC Scotland gave the corporation a positive score for its news output, much higher than the 51% of the Scottish population as a whole.

Across age groups, the BBC is struggling to attract younger audiences to its news output. In 2019, the report says, just 21% of 16-24 year olds in the UK turned to the corporation for news.

Among older people, who typically make up the bulk of the BBC’s audience, the report found “satisfaction levels ... beginning to show signs of waning” for the first time.

The National:

However, while the BBC’s reach has declined since 2018 across every age group, satisfaction with the corporation overall (not just its news output) has risen in some areas, notably among minority ethnic people, disabled people aged over 65, people aged 25-34, and Scots.

The Ofcom report, published yesterday, also reveals challenges for the BBC in how well it is seen to be representing and portraying the nations and regions of the UK across all of its output.

The National:

The findings show that people in Scotland, along with those in the West and South-West of England, have the poorest perception of how BBC content represents and portrays them.

On the opposite end of the scale, those who live in London and the South-East of England have very high opinions of how they see their areas represented in BBC output.

The full Ofcom paper, its third annual report on the BBC, can be read here.