Chris Frost

Ofcom: An evaluation of UK broadcast journalism regulation of news and current affairs

Recent revelations about journalism ethics in the UK have thrown regulation of the media into the spotlight with the Press Complaints Commission found wanting and suggestions of change for the Office of Communication, the broadcast regulator, making this an ideal time to evaluate its performance. Amongst other duties, Ofcom is responsible for accepting and adjudicating complaints about editorial and programme content from viewers and listeners. Ofcom has received between 5,000 and 30,000 complaints a year, depending on whether some incident catches the public imagination. This paper analyses the thousand or so complaints adjudicated by Ofcom in the period 2004 to 2010 to identify how effective Ofcom is at dealing with complaints, particularly those about news and current affairs. The paper also aims to gain some insight into how Ofcom's adjudications affect programme makers' decisions.

Keywords: Ofcom, Office of Communications, regulation, broadcasting, journalism, complaints


  1. BBC Editorial Guidelines (2011). Available online at, accessed on 21 November 2011
  2. Frost, Chris (2011) Journalism ethics and regulation, London, Pearson Education, third edition
  3. Ofcom (2011) The Ofcom broadcasting code, February. Available online at, accessed on 1 November 2011
  4. Ofcom (2004-2011) Broadcast Bulletins. Available online at, accessed on 1 November 2011
  5. Ofcom (2003-2011) Annual Reports. Available online at, accessed on 1 November 2011

Note on the contributor

Professor Chris Frost is Head of Journalism at Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK. He is the author of Journalism ethics and regulation (Pearson Education 2011, third edition), Media ethics and self-regulation (Longman 2000), Reporting for journalists (Routledge 2010, second edition) and Designing for newspapers and magazines (Routledge 2011, second edition). He is also chair of the NUJ's Ethics Council and a former President of the NUJ. Contact details: Department of Journalism, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool Innovation Park, Edge Lane, Liverpool L7 9NQ. Tel: 0151 231 4835; mobile: 07976 296777; email: