Recent research from Ofcom has shown what many producers know and have been discussing for some time. The fact that people in lower socio-economic groups – who account for almost a quarter of the UK population – feel underserved or underrepresented by the BBC. This is a shame because there has been a genuine commitment and intention from decision makers at the BBC to shift this bias.   

When our Creative Director Nav Raman was growing up in the Midlands, she was desperate to see someone who looked like her on screen and remembers shouting out to the family whenever there was a brown person on the telly. So, at Chatterbox giving voice to people, communities and stories that have been long overlooked has always been a driving ambition for the content we create. And to that end we have worked positively and collaboratively with BBC teams to bring game-changing shows to the screen. We’ve found when you make a choice to create that content the audience shows up.    

There’s no doubt that the modern audience, who have a huge choice of platforms and places to get their content, which they can watch when and how they want, are savvier and more aware of than ever. From social media to podcasts and streamers – they can find voices that relate, to real-life experiences. As the Ofcom report highlighted these “hyper-personalised libraries of content which they can watch at their convenience” and which “offer more engaging and light-hearted content which better meets their needs for escapism and companionship” have changed the game for everyone.  

Our programmes demonstrate that fresh bold authentic content is the only way to disrupt the status quo.  

Our hit series Meet The Khans, set in Amir Khans’s beloved hometown Bolton, landed with a bang, getting 6 million views and bringing a new audience to the BBC. Twenty per cent of those who watched it were new viewers to BBC iPlayer, and a higher percentage of ethnically diverse, northern viewers tuned in to be entertained by this unapologetic, unmediated series, in which they saw themselves and their region proudly represented. Similarly Extraordinary Portraits, a much-loved BBC1 series, is effortlessly diverse – it’s mission to celebrate ordinary people who have done something extraordinary is a great leveller – taking us across the UK to tell little heard, honest stories about modern Britain.   

It’s important to respect the need for us all to see ourselves represented – and in this case for viewers to see “normal, working-class lives” and not the stereotypes or ‘tokenist’ characterisations.” If they don’t get it, they can, and do, move on to platforms that offer this in abundance. Our latest series Charlotte in Sunderland shows the real world of the inimitable Ms Crosby; a self-made social media star and entrepreneur bringing the authenticity the audience wants. It shines a positive light on Sunderland – helping to triple the audiences from the north-east and bringing a different audience demographic to any other show on the platform. To have a permanent base in the Northeast and employ a talented editorial and production team in the region has been really important in being able to tell Charlotte’s story in Sunderland. It flips the cliched over used stereotype of “it’s grim up north”, and the audience loved it, hitting an incredible 45 million impressions on socials.  

And we think there is reason to remain optimistic because the report further highlights ‘Working-class audiences watch more TV than anyone else – 3 hours 44 minutes a day on average, compared to 1 hour 57 minutes among middle-class viewers” – and “despite these challenges, our study shows that audiences from lower income households still retain a connection with the BBC. Many participants rate the BBC’s news offering, while others still consider it the home for coverage of big, milestone events that bring the nation together” programmes like EastEnders, Match of the Day and Strictly Come Dancing are big hitters which serve a broad audience  

While the findings from the Ofcom study highlight the challenges the BBC faces in representing lower socio-economic audiences it also offers an opportunity for indies like Chatterbox – to create the most fresh, diverse, and authentic content. This coupled with strategic marketing, to make audiences aware of the content that’s on offer, there is opportunity to attract and engage and grow underserved audiences, that can ensure the continued relevance of the BBC in this changing media landscape into the future. 

The powerful lesson Chatterbox takes from this report is that content brings change. New voices disrupt the status quo. Authentic storytelling brings better fresher content. Investing in underrepresented areas and talent is the best way to access the stories, people and places that the audience want to see.