Broadcasting privacy and fairness complaints up 22%

The number of people complaining to Ofcom about breach of privacy and unfair treatment in TV and radio has risen by almost a quarter in the past year.

The communications regulator said today that it had considered 238 such complaints in the year to the end of March – up 22 per cent on the previous year’s figure of 194.

About two-thirds of the complaints were not entertained because they did not come under Ofcom’s broadcasting code remit, and the number of upheld complaints remained stable at 23.

The total number of complaints, covering all areas of broadcasting output, was 27,549 last year. This was down substantially on the 67,742 recorded in the previous year, although the 2007/08 figure was high due to the record 44,500 complaints relating to Celebrity Big Brother.

Upheld complaints relating to programmes rose by 22 per cent from 135 to 211. About 98 per cent of the programmes investigated by Ofcom were found to not be in breach of the broadcasting code.

The complaints figures are revealed in the new Ofcom annual report, which was published today.

Ofcom’s total revenue in the 12 months to the end of March 2009 fell 7.2 per cent from £142.4m to £132.1m.

After deduction of costs, the regulator was left with a surplus of £2.2m – down from £8.3m in the previous year.

The number of staff on the Ofcom payroll was 853 at the end of March, compared with 812 at the end of March 2008.

But the wage bill fell by £2.5m to £58.3m after the Ofcom executive committee agreed not to be considered for a bonus.

David Cameron this week singled out Ofcom in his pledge to slim down the size and power of non-governmental bodies under a Tory government.

The Conservative party leader said: “We could slim this body down a huge amount and save a lot of money for the taxpayer.”

Ofcom said it had cut its budget in real terms every year for the past five years. The 2009/10 budget is £136.8m, down £3.1m on last year.

Chief executive Ed Richards – whose takehome pay fell six per cent last year to £417,851 – said: “Over the last five years we have cumulatively reduced our cost to stakeholders by £117m, including an approximate £68m saving to taxpayers.”

The regulator has announced a pay freeze for all staff, including management, in the 2009/10 financial year.

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