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Ofcom report reveals young people turned off by BBC

The BBC is failing to attract younger audiences: only 8% of young people watch BBC Three content each week.

An Ofcom report has found that as 16-34 year olds shift to online viewing and listening, the BBC has failed to keep younger audiences on board.

In its annual report on the BBC, Ofcom found that on the occasions when younger viewers do watch regular broadcast TV, they spend almost as much time watching ITV as BBC One (whereas viewers as a whole spend much more time watching BBC One than ITV). 

Younger people, it found, are also more likely to listen to commercial, rather than BBC radio stations.

Despite the popularity of the BBC's online services, Ofcom research revealed that overall, the BBC's reach among young people is still lower than among all adults. Ofcom estimates that on average, young people spend around one hour and twenty minutes with the BBC every day, which is around half as much time as audiences overall.  Few young people - 8% - choose to watch BBC Three online.

Recognising the shift by younger viewers to online platforms, the BBC turned BBC Three into an online-only service in 2016. But at the same time, its budget was slashed. Although BBC Three still produces a number of critically acclaimed programmes each year, guaranteeing a seat at awards ceremonies and newspaper column inches, the latest Ofcom research confirms a trend that it's failing to reach the audiences it was supposed to reach in any meaningful way. 

Earlier this year, BBC Three was granted a £10million boost to its budget, bringing the total to £40million a year.

However, two and a half years since the transition online, the BBC Three brand appears to be gradually vanishing from the BBC website, with no direct link in the primary menus from the main homepage, and content produced under the BBC Three brand no longer standing out among other iPlayer content, unless a user accesses the 'channels' menu. Despite younger viewers leading the switch to online services, the BBC opted to extend children's channel CBBC's linear broadcast hours to 9pm in April 2016.

In its conclusion, Ofcom said the BBC needed to take "significant steps" to address this issue, "to ensure it delivers content that appeals in ways that suit and reflect young people’s viewing and listening habits."

Prior to the 2016 transition online, BBC Three was noted as the only BBC channel that attracted a higher proportion of ethnic minority viewers than other channels, in addition to attracting an audience significantly younger than BBC One, BBC Two and BBC Four viewers. 

With regards the portrayal of people from across the UK's communities, Ofcom found in its report that the BBC (and TV in general) has become "better at representing and portraying a wider mix of people than it used to be". But the broadcaster has been told it has further to go in representing and portraying different audiences authentically.