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Summary

Ofcom has published a consultation on its third review of public service broadcasting (PSB). Its view is that PSB is performing well in the UK, despite investment and its share of viewing figures both falling. Still, Ovum research shows that PSBs remain valuable assets, even in today’s evolving TV market. The regulator’s consultation will remain open until February 26, 2015.

Ofcom’s initial view is that public service broadcasting is performing well

On December 15, 2014, Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, issued a consultation to launch its third assessment of PSB. The review examines how well the BBC, ITV, STV, UTV, Channel 4, Channel 5, and S4C have been meeting the goals of public broadcasting since the last analysis was completed in 2008. Ofcom believes that PSB is performing well, and 77% of viewers surveyed are satisfied with the public channels’ output. Although private pay-TV services are well established in the UK, public programming remains widely popular, accounting for 51.1% of overall TV viewing figures. This has, however, fallen by 9% over the past five years, and investment in original first-run programs has fallen by 17% over the same period.

As recent Ovum research shows, and despite the evolution of the market, PSB has a role to play both now and in the future. Even in the age of online video services and “a la carte” channel bundles, traditional PSB should not be immediately dismantled. It represents a non-excludable and non-rivalrous good, effectively delivering content to the masses. Public operators play an important cultural and social role, and many are adapting to the sector’s development by offering their services online. Furthermore, public broadcasting requirements guarantee the provision of niche genres of content. By imposing on certain broadcasters the obligation to invest in and air particular genres, policy-makers can ensure that all of a society’s demographics are adequately represented in TV and/or radio programming. This mitigates the risk of some content not being provided by the free market because private broadcasters consider it commercially unviable or unattractive.

Appendix

Further reading

The Models, Funding, and Regulation of Public Service Broadcasting, TE0007-000853 (December 2014)

Author

James Robinson, Analyst, Policy and Regulation

james.robinson@ovum.com

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