Ofcom Annual Report 2023 – Where’s the Focus on Equality Impact Assessments?

Ofcom’s 2022/23 Annual Report outlines several initiatives and strategies related to radio broadcasting and the promotion of the needs of minority communities and people defined by protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. However, Ofcom’s report does not provide details on how they propose to undertake and consider Equality Impact Assessments in the future. Indeed, despite this being an active consultation that is being undertaken at present, this report suggests that there is no concern about the way Ofcom accounts for the interests of minority communities, which is not a true representation. Read the responses here.

Here’s a summary of the key points that the Ofcom Annual Report 2023 makes about minority communities and equality impact assessments:

  • Diversity Data Collection: Ofcom is expanding the data they collect from TV and radio broadcasters’ workforces to promote equity, diversity, and inclusion across the broadcasting industry. They have developed a new framework and guidance for this data collection, which will inform their work over the coming year and help them report on the industry’s progress in their annual Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in Broadcasting report. Will this encompass community radio, which ensures access for people to broadcast platforms and services for people from minority and underserved communities?
  • Audience Needs and Broadcasting Standards: Ofcom has continued to uphold standards for programmes broadcast on TV, radio, and on-demand services. They have carried out in-depth research to ensure their rules reflect the changing needs, views, and behaviours of TV and radio audiences. They have also developed a new method for identifying small gaps in radio spectrum that can be used for special radio services, such as hospital radio, which can cater to specific community needs. Will this recognise that our radio spectrum standards are massively out of date and need to be reviewed, to open up AM and FM to on-demand licencing as proposed in the Media Bill?
  • Licensing New Radio Services: Ofcom has continued to license new small-scale DAB digital radio services across the UK. This has led to 177 new digital radio stations being on air around the UK, providing listeners with access to a range of local and specialist content that meets their needs. What are Ofcom going to do for people and groups who can’t access SSDAB and for who this is not a workable solution because it doesn’t match their audience needs?
  • BBC’s Local Radio Services: In England, Ofcom has been involved in discussions with the BBC about its plans to transform local services, including local radio stations. They expect the BBC to review the impact of its changes to local radio in England to ensure they are meeting audience needs. Ofcom have shown very little appetite to question the BBC on their cuts to local radio in England, will this be shutting the door after the horse has bolted?

While these initiatives indicate Ofcom’s commitment to promoting the needs of minority communities and people defined by protected characteristics, the report does not provide details on how Ofcom proposes to undertake and consider Equality Impact Assessments in the future. Does Ofcom not consider this to be a priority in their work as an independent regulator?

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