In total, more than one in ten (11 percent) of adults felt the need to complain about the BBC in the last year. This is the highest level among rival broadcasters in the UK – ITV (six percent) and Channel 4 (four percent), but lower compared with other industries (21 percent for online retailers, 15 percent for energy companies). But in a crushing blow to the BBC, two-fifths (39 percent) of the complaints made against it relate to perceived bias, with a quarter (26 percent) complaining about perceived misleading/dishonest content.
The research from Ofcom suggested the BBC is more than twice as likely to attract complaints about these issues compared to the other public service broadcasters.
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Reacting to the findings, Brexit Watch Chairman and former MEP Ben Habib told Jeremy Kyle on TalkTV: “The BBC can be incredibly insular but I don’t believe the BBC is any more left-wing than a number of other media channels.
“I welcome the challenges when I’m on the BBC. I like it they think I’m a swivel-eyed right-wing lunatic.”
The Ofcom report warned: “Our audience research also shows the BBC’s impartiality remains a key area of concern with its audiences.
“Although they rate its news highly for trust and accuracy, they consistently rate it less favourably on impartiality.
“The BBC needs to understand why this is the case and do more to address concerns arising from perceptions of its impartiality.
“Our new research illustrates the complexity of the issue, and that audience perceptions of the BBC’s impartiality are driven by more than just content.”
Ofcom said its report found “in the current politically polarised and emotionally charged cultural climate”, some viewers prefer news outlets that take a single clear perspective on an issue and criticise some outlets for “sitting on the fence’”.
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Dame Melanie said: “Viewers and listeners tell us they aren’t happy with how the BBC handles their complaints, and it clearly needs to address widespread perceptions about its impartiality.
“So we’re directing it to respond to these concerns, by being much more transparent and open with its audiences.
“The BBC must also adapt quickly to keep up with changes in what audiences want, and how they get their content.
“We’re doing our bit, by future-proofing our regulation so the BBC can continue its transformation for the digital age.”
Ofcom research on audience perceptions of the BBC First complaints system saw it conduct 528 telephone and 1,879 online interviews between November 19, 2021 and January 7, 2022.
Express.co.uk has approached the BBC for comment.