Working class viewers of the BBC are switching off from the broadcaster in droves after a new Ofcom report claims the channel’s output is considered increasingly “safe” and “overly politically correct”.
According to the Ofcom report, BBC programming is increasingly seen as “dry and serious” compared to other channels and the major streaming services among those in D and E socioeconomic groups.
The corporation was also accused of being “out of touch with ordinary people” due to the high salaries of presenters, particularly during the current cost-of-living crisis.
However, the corporation was praised for shows like Gavin and Stacey, The Royle Family and Still Game, which many felt represented the working class well.
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Ofcom’s report said it was felt that the BBC’s portrayal of the working class used “extreme stereotypes” such as emphasising “criminality, drink and drug cultures” and “financial hardship”.
It also found that people living in the nations and in English regions feel that the BBC focuses disproportionately on London and the south-east of England.
The BBC’s output was increasingly seen as “dry and serious” compared to shows on other channels and streaming services, which better met the desire for “escapism” and “companionship”.
The BBC’s portrayal of the working class was often seen as “tokenistic” and “patronising”.
Some also felt frustrated at being forced to pay for the BBC, saying the licence fee was “outdated’.
Ofcom published the report into BBC audiences
The report added: “BBC content was also seen as increasingly ‘safe’ and, by some, overly politically correct.
“In explaining how the BBC has become ‘safe’, people mentioned past programming they had enjoyed but felt wouldn’t be made any more, or they mentioned presenters and talent that they felt the BBC used to employ but wouldn’t now (eg Ricky Gervais, Jeremy Clarkson).”
Despite this, the BBC was found to be still a firm part of their media habits, in some form.
According to the Ofcom research, many also talked of their admiration for much of what the BBC does.
In May 2023, the BBC announced that Ricky Gervais had directed a short film – 7Minutes – for the BBC, his first BBC project since 2013
However, there was also a sense the BBC was “increasingly reliant” on established shows such as Strictly Come Dancing.
There was a perception among these groups that the BBC’s content is more serious, unrelatable and less risky.
Working class audiences said the BBC’s comedy had become “not edgy enough for modern tastes”.
A spokesperson from the BBC said: “The BBC reaches more adults from low socio-economic groups than any other provider and Ofcom has welcomed the BBC’s ongoing efforts to increase representation and deliver more authentic portrayal across its output.”
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