The BBC, the UK’s public broadcaster, must do more to engage with younger audiences, an official report has warned after finding that increasing numbers of young people are switching to commercial broadcasters and streaming services.

According to media regulator Ofcom, people aged 16 to 34 spend around 1 hour and 20 minutes a day consuming BBC content, or less than half the average 2 hours and 44 minutes consumed by all age groups in the UK.

In part, this reflects a wider shift in viewing habits, Ofcom said, but the regulator also pointed out that young people spend almost as much time watching commercial rival ITV on a TV set as BBC One – whereas the total number of viewers spend 50% more time watching BBC One, the corporation’s main TV channel, than ITV.

In addition, few young people bother to watch BBC Three online, even though it is a channel created specifically to appeal to younger viewers, and they also prefer to listen to commercial radio rather than BBC radio stations.

“The BBC recognises it needs to do more, and more quickly, to reach young people who are critical to its future success,” Ofcom said.

“As well as providing content that appeals, it needs to find new ways of reaching younger people that suit and reflect their viewing and listening habits,” the report added.

Turning to the BBC’s other activities, Ofcom judged that the corporation is “generally delivering” on its remit for audiences and that it continues to play a “central role” across TV, radio and online platforms.

In fact, audience satisfaction with the BBC is relatively high with three-quarters satisfied with BBC radio (74%) and BBC websites and apps (75%), and just over two-thirds with BBC TV (68%).

However, Ofcom noted that Netflix and Amazon have rapidly established themselves in the UK, while YouTube now reaches more than 44 million people a month.

And with the BBC facing ever-increasing competition from commercial operators, it recommended four main areas where the BBC should go further to deliver for audiences.

In addition to re-engaging with young people, the regulator said the BBC should invest more in original content that reflect UK stories and it also needs to be more transparent about the split between its public service and commercial activities.

The fourth recommendation concerned the BBC’s representation of society amid concerns that older women, among others, are less visible than they should be or are portrayed in ways that are too narrow or inauthentic.

“Viewers and listeners have told us the BBC is generally doing a good job. But it can go further in some areas,” said Sharon White, chief executive of Ofcom.

“We expect the BBC to do more in attracting younger people, being bolder in the programmes it makes, and making original UK programmes that accurately reflect the lives of people around the UK.”

Sourced from Ofcom; additional content by WARC staff