BBC TV Centre BBC Television Centre Credit: Phil_Parker
Ofcom should be given final responsibility for regulating impartiality and accuracy in BBC content, the Lords communications committee has proposed, to stop the broadcaster from being its own "judge and jury" in such cases.

In a report published today following an inquiry the committee called for "the convoluted and overly complicated" complaints process at the BBC to be improved.

This included addressing the "principal remaining issue" that broadcast regulator Ofcom does not currently consider whether BBC broadcast content has breached the Ofcom code on "due impartiality and due accuracy".

The committee offered three options for resolving this issue, which have been put before new chairman of the BBC Trust Lord Patten and Ofcom chairman Dr Bowe.

These include the trust appointing an independent adjudicator selected by a joint BBC Trust and Ofcom panel, Ofcom being able to consider matters of impartiality and accuracy on the BBC in the same way as other standards issues, or that an independent adjudicator could be set up and sit within Ofcom, selected by the BBC Trust with the approval of Ofcom.

In the latter case the BBC Trust should be able to publicly disagree with the findings of the adjudicator with reasons, but the adjudicator's decision would be final, the report added.

The committee said the majority of support was for the second option, but all three have been presented to the chairmen.

According to the report Lord Grade, a former chairman of the BBC Board of Governors, described his experience of complaining to the BBC since leaving the corporation as "a grizzly experience".

In a bid to simplify the process, the committee said the BBC and Ofcom should consider drawing up a new memorandum of understanding on complaints, which would require all complaints about BBC programmes and services to be considered by the BBC first, before being given a right of appeal to the BBC Trust if complainants are not content.

Only if the complainants are not satisfied with the outcome of this appeal should a complaint about BBC broadcast content be considered by Ofcom, the report adds.

Currently, the committee said, the numerous ways for viewers, listeners and users of BBC content makes it difficult for them to know where to complain, which "must be resolved".

"The BBC needs to provide a clear overview of how the complaints process works and publish this in one place on its website and there needs to be a clearing house to direct people through the complaints process.

This "one-stop shop" within the BBC would provide a clear entry point for complaints to be registered and either dealt with directly or passed on to the relevant department in more serious matters.

The committee recommended this role be taken on by BBC Audience Services and that all complaints are forwarded to this department, even where the initial complaint is made directly to the programme team.

Chairman of the communications committee Lord Inglewood added in a release that Lord Patten is due to review issues of BBC governance this summer.

"In the longer term, the broadcasting world, which is in a state of flux as convergence is starting to become a reality, has an important few years ahead, with the new Communications Act in 2015, the next charter review in 2016, and the licence renewals of Channel 3 and Channel 5 in 2014.

"We urge the government to consider our recommendations as part of its policy development, so they can be a useful contribution to the industry as a whole in this period of regulatory change."

The committee also used the report to call for greater clarity on the governance role of non-executives on the BBC Executive Board, and for non-executive directors at the BBC to be recruited from a wider range of backgrounds.

It also urged the government, the BBC and the National Audit Office (NAO) to work together to agree on terms of access for the NAO to the BBC, "ensuring that the NAO does not comment on any matters of broadcast content or journalistic integrity which should be entirely off limits".

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