Ofcom publishes research on audience expectations in a digital world

posted on 15 April, 2020   (public)

While people feel more responsible for choosing what they watch, they  expect regulation to focus on harmful content and the protection of minors

This qualitative study, conducted by Ipsos MORI on behalf of UK regulator Ofcom, aims to understand how audience expectations are evolving over time.

It is crucial for regulators to really understand viewers’ and listeners’ concerns, needs and priorities as this helps them to ensure that broadcasting rules remain effective and up to date.

Methodology: Focusing on TV, radio, catch-up services, Subscription services (VOD) and video-sharing sites (VSP), six day-long deliberative workshops, nine mini-groups and 24 in-depth interviews with specific groups were organised in the course of which the participants were asked to analyse hypothetical programme scenarios.


The research highlights a shift in the audience expectations and reveals changing social norms, as content that incites crime and causes harm, such as racial and gender discrimination, is a major concern (the number of complaints related so such discrimination tripled over the last four years).

Other key findings from the research include the following:

  • The greater choice of audiovisual content available on many different platforms and the new modes of media consumption give the audience a sense of responsibility for choosing content, and people do value the freedom to access it at any time. Some participants however felt they lacked control and worried about the addictive nature of new modes of content delivery, such as the automatic start feature of new episodes or content.
  • Nevertheless participants still expect the regulator and the broadcasters to ensure that the content is appropriate and to provide clear information on content to enable them to make an informed choice.
  • There was limited awareness of regulation and some confusion about how it applies, especially  concerning catch-up, SVOD and VSP content and regarding broadcast content produced outside of the UK.
  • Content on VSPs raise more concerns, and especially with regards to minors, as there is more probability to come across harmful content (pop-up, rolling playlist…) and people perceive a lack of regulation on these platforms.
  • Participants support existing regulation but emphasize priorities: the protection of children and the rules around incitement of crime, disorder, hatred and abuse should be a clear priority (for instance over offence).

Source: Ofcom