COMING SOON: Report on the Future of Public Service Television for the 21st Century

The Future for Public Service Television Inquiry, chaired by Lord Puttnam, will publish its report and executive summary on 29th June.

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SUBMISSION: APPRENTICESHIP LEVY – THE GREAT LEAP FORWARD

According to Michael Foster (co-founder, Creative Access), the government’s apprenticeship levy is a great opportunity for a radical rethinking and reform of training and talent development in the television industry. In particular, the initiative can be used to reverse the trend of the alarming reduction of socio-economic diversity within the television sector. Foster argues that the freelance nature of work in the sector does not provide a sufficient excuse not to adapt to the forthcoming apprenticeship levy – rather, training the workforce and ‘widening the funnel for the intake’ will benefit the television industry, as the freelance labour force will have more opportunities to transfer and carry skills from job to job and from company to company. Foster’s recommendations include a call for the industry to ‘act in concert’ and to ‘create standards that are of real value and benefit’. Foster also calls for the foundation of a National Media Apprenticeship College, the industry’s own self-funded training school, and for a Media Apprenticeship Training Agency. Read Foster’s submission in full here.

SUBMISSION: Everything for Someone: For An Inclusive Definition of Public Service Broadcasting

According to Brett Mills (University of East Anglia) there is a growing need for a broader, more inclusive definition of public service broadcasting, as there has been a ‘worrying normalisation of a limited definition of PSB’ in both academic and policy contexts, which ‘runs counter to public conception of the term.’ Mills points out that the provision of PSB can only function if its services are universal, not only in terms of access but also in terms of content. ‘A universal PSB enables all citizens to see their lives reflected and valued within content, and this is only possible if PSB encompasses as wide a range of genres and programming.’ Yet, discourses on PSB function often ‘hierarchise’ different kinds of PSB provision, and there is a worrying trend that some genres are seen as more public service than others. Read Mill’s submission in full here.

IN THE NEWS: Lord Puttnam Calls for ITV to boost current affairs

By Jake Kanter, Broadcast, 14 June 2016

ITV should dramatically increase its commitment to current affairs to strengthen its contribution to the PSB ecology, an influential review has concluded.

Lord Puttnam’s Future for Public Service Television Inquiry will recommend that Ofcom “construct an imaginative proposal” to ensure ITV continues to deliver public service content in a digital age.

When published on 29 June, it will say Ofcom should conduct a “major review” of how best ITV can contribute to the PSB ecology and suggest any changes should result in an increase in current affairs output.

Previewing its findings during the Sheffield Doc/Fest, the inquiry will recommend ITV broadcasts 90 minutes of current affairs a week. This would equate to 78 hours a year, which is an 81% increase on its current 43-hour minimum obligation.

ITV often exceeds the commitments set out in the Channel 3 licence and last year it aired 63 hours of current affairs programming.

This means it would need to increase its output in the genre by a quarter to meet the Future for Public Service Television Inquiry’s target.

The report will also say that ITV should increase the minimum amount of regional current affairs it broadcast every week from 15 to 30 minutes.

In return for the current affairs commitments, Puttnam’s review will say that ITV should be guaranteed continued prominence on electronic programme guides and on demand services. It will also conclude that ITV should be paid retransmission fees by pay-TV operators, such as Sky.

“There is a great opportunity here to reinvent current affairs television content for the 21st century, while building on the very best of ITV’s traditions,” Puttnam said.

“This would have the additional benefit of raising the game of other broadcasters, not least the BBC, by restoring the competition for quality that was a hallmark of the public service television world in the recent past.”

An ITV spokesman said: “ITV is proud to be a public service broadcaster with a strong commitment to very significant investment in original UK content, including international, national and regional news and current affairs.

“We welcome the Inquiry’s recommendation that ITV, and other PSBs, should receive a range of regulatory support, including continued EPG prominence and the payment of retransmission fees. We look forward to reading the full report when it is published later this month.”

Ofcom conducted a thorough review of the Channel 3 licence ahead of its renewal in 2014. The work involved extensive consultation and it said at the time it was an “important step in securing a sustainable future for public service broadcasting in the UK over the next decade”.

IN THE NEWS: ITV should make more current affairs content, says Puttnam inquiry

ITV should be required to make more current affairs programming in return for increased support from regulators, according to an influential inquiry into the future of broadcasting in the UK.

The inquiry, led by film-maker and Labour peer Lord Puttnam, said there was an opportunity to strengthen the broadcaster’s public service role and “recapture the scale and ambition of the best of ITV’s historic reputation for flagship current affairs programming”.

The suggested increases in the minimum requirements for current affairs programming are modest, moving from 15 minutes to 30 minutes a week of regional programming and the equivalent of 90 minutes a week on ITV’s national network. ITV’s licence currently requires 43 hours of current affairs programming a year on the national network and in 2015 it broadcast 63 hours. However, 90 minutes a week would be equivalent to 78 hours, the level required roughly a decade ago.
In return ITV would get additional support including continued protection for its prominent place on the electronic programme guide and on future online services. The inquiry also recommends that, along with other public service broadcasters, ITV should be paid by platforms such as Sky which currently host its channels for free.

As well as increasing minimum requirements for non-news current affairs, the inquiry is calling for regulator Ofcom to embark on a review of ITV’s role in the UK’s broadcasting ecology and create an “imaginative proposal” for strengthening its contribution to democratic accountability.

Puttnam said: “There is a great opportunity here to reinvent current affairs television content for the 21st century, while building on the very best of ITV’s traditions. This would have the additional benefit of raising the game of other broadcasters, not least the BBC, by restoring the competition for quality that was a hallmark of the public service television world in the recent past.”

When ITV was established it had far more stringent public service commitments, but these have been steadily reduced as bosses argued they were hindering its commercial performance.

In 2013 Ofcom allowed ITV to reduce its weekday regional news bulletins from 30 minutes to 20 minutes but increased the number of regions targeted to 14 from eight. The regulator said audiences would benefit from more targeted programming. ITV currently runs 20 minutes of purely regional news as part of 30 minute programmes in all regions except London and Granada, where purely regional news makes up the full 30 minutes.

In 2015 ITV recorded an 18% rise in pre-tax profits to £843m, on revenues that grew 15% to £2.97bn. It has in recent years shifted increasingly into production through its ITV Studios arm, buying up companies such as The Voice creator Talpa Media.
Though ITV has been criticised for reducing current affairs output over previous decades, it recently launched Peston on Sunday, a weekly politics show fronted by former BBC business editor Robert Peston, one of a number of high profile hires.

An ITV spokesperson said: “ITV is proud to be a public service broadcaster with a strong commitment to very significant investment in original UK content, including international, national and regional news and current affairs.

“We welcome the inquiry’s recommendation that ITV, and other PSBs, should receive a range of regulatory support, including continued EPG prominence and the payment of retransmission fees. We look forward to reading the full report when it is published later this month.”

An spokesperson for Ofcom said: “Ofcom welcomes discussion about the future of public service broadcasting, to ensure it continues to meet audience expectations and needs. We will review Lord Puttnam’s report when published.”

The full findings of the Puttnam inquiry, which are expected to focus on the future of the BBC and Channel 4, will be published on 29 June.