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.
Michael Foster, Creative Access
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 CAMRI’s (Communications and Media Research Institute, University of Westminster) comprehensive evaluation of funding possibilities for public service children’s content, which draws experiences outside the UK. The resulting report addresses the following questions: what forms of alternative funding exist to support public service content for children in a transforming multiplatform media environment? What can we learn from the types of funding and support for children’s screen content that are available elsewhere in the world? And How effective are these funding systems and funding sources for supporting domestically produced content?
CAMRI_Funding of PSM for Children
BFI‘s (British Film Institute’s) submission to the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications focuses on Channel 4 Corporation (C4C) and more specifically its engagement with film and moving image content. BFI’s view is that C4C contributes ‘more programmes of distinction’ to the National Television Archive than any other PSB, and singles out Film4 as a very important source of investment in UK film industry. It should remain ‘true to its statutory PSB remit’ in ‘maintaining a point of difference’ and ‘continuing to focus on setting a high bar for quality and diversity of screen content’ which appeals to younger audiences.
According to Justin Schlosberg (Birkbeck, University of London) the government’s recent White Paper on BBC Charter Renewal, exhibits a ‘worrying development’ in terms of proposed changes to the BBC’s governance. The proposed system of a new ‘unitary board’ in which the majority of members will be appointed by the government, threatens ‘to give a direct government appointee overall editorial responsibility for all the BBC’s output.’ This government move goes against the previous Charter Renewal option of ‘top slicing’ of the licence fee, which was perceived as a commercial threat to this public institution. But Schlosberg observes that ‘a centralised and concentrated BBC is intrinsically more vulnerable to editorial pressures precisely because they can filter down the chain of governors, directors, managers and editors.’ On the other hand, top slicing, if structured in the right way, would potentially allow decentralisation of the BBC’s structure and governance, which would ‘need not involve any degree of privatisation or commercialisation’, and would potentially be even more immune to to market pressures.
The submission by Sian Powell and Caitriona Noonan (School of Journalism, Media and Culture, Cardiff University) focuses on the Welsh public service broadcasting landscape in the context of political devolution. According to Powell and Noonan, while there is clear evidence of ‘success and a well-placed sense of optimism’ about the recent changes to the Welsh television sector, key issues remain, including a limited range of news sources about devolved politics, and a significant decrease in investment and production of English language programming in Wales. And while Powell and Noonan acknowledge Wales as being the key site for drama production, they also point out that the drama produced ‘rarely reflects life in Wales and Wales is solely a location for filming rather than part of the narrative setting.’ Creating the content that is representative of Welsh communities in the context of the decentralisation of broadcasting services is crucial, and it can be achieved by increasing financial resources, enabling local decision-making and strengthening a cultural commitment to change the public service landscape.
Sian Powell and Caitriona Noonan
Public service broadcasting, according to Dr Ken Griffin, occupies a critical role in Northern Irish society as a provider of non-sectarian news and current affairs coverage. According to Griffin, UTV, has particularly strong connection with its audience and has built an excellent reputation for independent journalism during the Troubles. However, ITV’s recent takeover of UTV has ‘introduced considerable uncertainty about the station’s future’ due to ‘conflicting business models’, with a risk of diminishing local TV output. BBC NI, on the other hand, while ‘consistently securing lower ratings than UTV’, is a ‘highly valuable television service’ and the only NI provider for speakers of the region’s two minority languages and providing a ‘far wider range of programming’ compared to UTV. The governance provisions within the White Paper, however, focused on boardroom numbers rather than nomination procedures, and thus ‘represent a significant threat to the BBC’s editorial independence.’
As the creative industries skills partner, Creative Skillset‘s (CS) submission looks at the key factors that enable relevant skills provision from entry to executive level. While Creative Skillset works across the creative sectors, the submission focuses on the television industry and public service broadcasting more specifically, which, according to CS, has been a driving force for innovative and high quality content across genres. However, with the rapid pace of change in business models, technology and audience behaviour, there is a high demand for more ‘holistic and collaborative approach across not just PSBs but all screen-based industries’. CS identifies barriers to entry in creating a workforce from a wide range of backgrounds, and a ‘systemic culture of those wishing to gain industry skills having to undertake unpaid ‘work experience’, affecting the current state of diversity in the PSB workforce. According to CS, the Government’s Apprenticeships levy, if implemented properly, could provide ‘a timely and effective opportunity for industry to help diversify and supply a cohort of new entrants to PSB.’
Michael Bailey (Department of Sociology, University of Essex) offers a comprehensive submission in which he critically examines the historical thinking that shaped television’s social purpose and its democratic mission. He reflects on how these ideas can guide and shape current debates of the role of public service television in the context of the medium’s changing production, distribution and consumption practices. Bailey’s submission, amongst others, reminds us of the enduring values of good policy interventions which are enabling rather than prohibitive. He highlights Richard Hoggart’s important distinction between duties and rights for programme makers, legislators and viewers alike. The public’s duty is ‘to respect other people’s tastes’; legislators have a duty ‘to create structures and methods of financing for broadcasting which encourage the production of ‘good programmes’ and ‘to enable disparate voices to be heard’ and the duty of programme makers is to commission programmes that ‘bring before us all the widest range of subject matter, the whole scope and variety of human awareness and experience, the best and the worst, the new and the challenging, the old and familiar, the serious and the light [thus] enriching the lives of every one of us.’
As an independent campaign organisation, Save Our BBC’s submission focuses on safeguarding the BBC’s public service ethos, including its cultural purpose, social responsibility and the importance of its contribution to UK citizenship. While Channel 4 still fulfils its public service remit, the abandonment of ITV’s regional infrastructure meant that some fundamentals of public service have been lost, specifically regional current affairs and specialist programming. Furthermore, proliferation of television channels means that the overall television output is towards popular programming and shrinking of a range and volume of public service genres, with over-reliance on the BBC alone to provide free to air children’s, natural history and religious original output. While there is a considerable amount of public service content on non-public service platforms, the vast majority of it is not indigenous to the UK and does not necessarily reflect or contribute towards UK citizenship. According to Save Our BBC, while the production, consumption and distribution practices may substantially change, ‘the need for quality PSTV programmes and content will continue undiminished’, and the full range of information, education and entertainment ‘must remain available to be accessed by their audiences.’
Save Our BBC
According to Ingrid Volkmer (University of Melbourne), our communicative environment is no longer simply separated along the line of ‘domestic’ and ‘foreign’ polarities. In order to sustain the public service model for the future, Volkmer argues that we need to consider it in the context of ‘an increasingly dense ‘fluid’ globalized digital environment. Multi-level networks such as Google and Facebook, it could be argued, provide ‘public service’ knowledge in ‘completely new areas from ‘web search’, to virtual libraries, to new areas of public service, such as navigation’, creating new geographies and public spheres in which to cater for the needs of citizens. Australian Media and Communication Authority (ACMA)’s media regulation, for example, proposes a new approach which ‘moves away from the centrality of media towards the centrality of the citizen, embedded in chosen networks of communication.’
The submission by Caitriona Noonan (Cardiff University) and Amy Genders (University of South Wales) focuses on the issue of serious decline in arts provision on public service television brought on mainly by structural and commercial changes in the television sector. Noonan and Genders argue that the need for intervention in arts television is even more crucial given the genre’s uniquely national character and mission to promote a shared and diverse cultural life. As television remains the key way to engage with arts across the UK, the medium is vital for the provision of the genre so that everyone has access to arts and culture regardless of economic or social background. Noonan and Genders furthermore acknowledge the need for a greater diversity in terms of subject matter in arts genre, taking more creative risks, and considering production and distribution strategies which would engage more with younger audiences as well as involve communities across the UK, not just the capital.
Caitriona Noonan and Amy Genders
Peter Goddard (University of Liverpool) questions the usefulness of the concept of ‘distinctiveness’ in measuring the value and impact of the BBC. With the term becoming policy nom du jour, Goddard argues that the term’s elastic and contradictory uses ‘conceals a threat to the notion of the BBC as a universal broadcaster as well.’ Goddard offers examples of BBC’s distinctive ‘breakout hits’ such as Top Gear and The Great British Bake Off which were not obvious candidates for commercial success, and could have only been developed within the non-profit model of broadcasting. Yet, while these programmes are initially praised for distinctiveness, they are also criticised for the lack of it, due to their popularity and longevity. The success and distinctiveness of popular programmes that the BBC produces is determined by its public service model, and its commitment to universality; as Goddard further points out, the BBC’s competitiveness is crucial to the ‘whole secure in ensuring that its competitors must seek to match quality of its output in order to compete for audiences.’
David Hesmondhalgh (University of Leeds) focuses on television being one of the key contributors to culture and thus overall quality of life. Culture has been intensified by digitisation ‘which allows access to culture to become more mobile, flexible, and frequent’. Culture has therefore become even more central to our lives and should ‘be considered alongside merit goods in the health and education sectors, as requiring public, democratic provision to prevent under-supply of goods that have a significant effect on people’s quality of life.’ As such, television should not be left to the market and only be understood in terms of consumers’ subjective preferences, as ‘consumers will generally over-value in advance the familiar, and underestimate the benefits of the fresh, the innovative and the challenging.’ As digitalisation also intensifies the problem of cultural fragmentation, a version of the current ecology of ‘a generously and universally funded BBC, alongside public service oriented commercial providers, must surely remain the prime means by which such cultural fragmentation is countered.’
A short submission by Jay Blumler (Emeritus Professor, University of Leeds) focuses on the BBC’s public purpose of ‘sustaining citizenship and civil society’ as being inadequate and too general so ‘that any editor of any news outlet could claim to subscribe to and to be serving it.’ According to Blumler, recent years have seen a diminishing of the civic mission of BBC news and current affairs. This has taken place due to various issues, including unrelenting competition to attract and hold audiences as well as ‘a drift away from a mixture of sacerdotal and pragmatic approaches to political news toward a more purely pragmatic one.’ The public purpose therefore needs to be made more specific: to provide information and analysis of current events, as well as include a provision of presenting ‘the main options among different ways of dealing with current issues’ and ‘ensuring that the experiences and views of all sectors of society likely to be affected by proposed policies are presented and heard.’
VIMN/Channel 5’s submission to the Inquiry positions Channel 5 as an integral part of PSB system. The submission emphasises that one of the PSB system’s great strengths is in its ‘range of ownership, funding and programming characteristics’, all serving to generate generate ‘a rich mix of predominantly British quality programmes.’ In this environment, Channel 5 ‘exceeds its licence obligations on nearly every front’, by delivering a range of high quality and diverse programming, exceeding the commitments to original UK programming and over-delivers on ‘the voluntary commitment on original children’s programmes.’ In safeguarding PSBs future, Channel 5 proposals include ‘rebalancing the relationship between PSBs and pay platforms, so the latter make a financial contribution to the PSB channels rather than benefitting from carrying them free.’
VIMN Channel 5
The submission by Simone Pennant of the TV Collective, who campaigns for a more inclusive TV industry, refers to a study of 200 of its members which revealed that there is a lack of trust in their abilities and that ‘the overriding feeling was talent felt the industry viewed them as a ‘risk’.’ Training schemes and initiatives, the TV Collective argues, inadvertently create the perception that BAME are “not good enough” for existing roles. As the issue of the lack of diversity ‘has been discussed for over twenty years with no long-term resolution’, the TV Collective believes that the time has come ‘for a drastic intervention’ as the TV industry in the UK is ‘haemorrhaging skilled and experienced talent at an alarming rate and losing audiences as a result.’ The BBC charter renewal therefore provides a very real opportunity to tackle the issue at the BBC and the industry as a whole.
The evidence submitted by Creative Access, a charity organisation which provides media job opportunities to BAME, focuses on diversity of representation in/on television. It states that the media is ‘still far from representing visually the society that pays it bills’, not tapping into a ‘vast pool of talent out there’ which, it argues, is also an economic issue for media organisations: ‘in not recruiting black and Asian workers, [the media] is limiting its labour resource and it will be unable to understand and sell back to significant proportion of the UK population that is non white.’ The economic case for diversity needs to be promoted across the creative sector, and there should also be ‘concrete measures on diversity to the BBC’s public purposes under the charter review process.’
Religious programming is one of the core purposes of public service broadcasting, according to The Sandford St Martin Trust. At a time when religion is ‘seen as such a powerful influence on world events’ the need for religious literacy has never been greater. However, there has been ‘the clear market failure in religious programming’ as a result of changes to the PSB regime in commercial broadcasting. One of the recommendations given by The Sandford St Martin Trust is that the status of religious broadcasting needs to be raised and promoting religious literacy needs to be one of the core BBC’s public purposes.
The Sandford St Martin Trust
According to Graham Murdock (Professor of Culture and Economy, University of Loughborough), in a communications environment which is increasingly organised around digital networks, and in which the dominant players (such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple) are all based outside the UK, there is a compelling case for a stronger public service and therefore an extension of the BBC’s public service remit. According to Murdock, in the UK, the BBC offers ‘the only effective institutional base for a comprehensive alternative to this corporate annexation of the internet’. Additionally, as Murdock argues, there are many other issues that have not been so far sufficiently taken into account in policy making processes concerned about the future for public service media, such as the ecological impact of infrastructures, the open source movement, and internationalisation of networks.
The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) voices concerns over the cuts to the BBC’s budget, the government’s consideration to privatise Channel 4, the repercussions of the 25% increase in ITV profits despite 4% drop in viewing, as well as the increasing number of UK companies being acquired by US broadcasters. Calling for a stronger PSB regulator, the NUJ recommends ‘stricter obligations on the commercial PSB channels to reach certain levels of investment in first-run programming, prime-time current affairs and diversity.’
The submission by the Campaign for Broadcasting Equality focuses on the BBC in order to address issues of diversity and BAME employment in the television industry. As a public service broadcaster that ‘should set the gold standard by which other PSBs and commercial broadcasters are judged’, the submission argues that the BBC has so far failed to boost diversity sufficiently both behind and in front of the camera. The campaign’s key recommendations are that diversity requirements need to be stated clearly in the new BBC Charter and Agreement, and that protected funding should be set aside to drive BAME employment in the BBC through a Diversity Fund.
Campaign for Broadcasting Equality CIO
According to Paul Smith (De Montfort University) and Tom Evens (Ghent University), sports coverage is essential in achieving PSB’s key ‘public purposes’. In an era of multi-channel digital television and increasingly fragmented audiences, ‘live television coverage of major sporting events remains one of the few forms of programming able to bring the nation together’. Yet, with the escalating costs of sports rights, driven largely by the growth of pay-TV since the 1990s, as well as the cuts to PSB funding (and the BBC in particular), there is a very real danger that sport (and especially live sport) will become an increasingly marginal feature of public service television. The listed events policy remains a vital safeguard for the preservation of major sporting events and ‘the case for listed events legislation based on the need to preserve/enhance cultural citizenship remains as strong as ever.’
Smith and Evens
The Institute of Welsh Affairs (IWA) submits to the Inquiry its recently published Media Audit for 2015. It raises concerns over the decline in spending on television programming for Wales, emphasising that this decline is particularly severe for English language television content produced for the audience in Wales. This is an issue as ‘pluralism needs to be viewed not just in terms of the number of providers, but also in terms of the range, form, purpose and tone of programmes and the voices they carry.’ One of IWA’s recommendations, therefore, is for the BBC to ‘create a funding and commissioning system that devolves a significant tranche of network funding so that commissioners in the nations can have the freedom to bring other cultural perspectives to bear, to improve ‘portrayal’ and so diversify the output.’ IWA states:
As a basis for urgent policy changes, the IWA Wales Media Audit 2015 provides comprehensive facts about tv, radio, press and online output in Wales since 2008. Its content on tv gives a holistic perspective of the medium in its context in Wales and beyond. The Executive Summary is offered here. The full 145-page report includes a review of Policy development tracking the emergence of key issues. The Institute of Welsh Affairs (IWA) is Wales’ leading independent think-tank.
Fel sylfaen ar gyfer newidiadau polisi angenrheidiol mae Arolwg y Sefydliad Materion Cymreig (IWA) o Gyfryngau Cymru 2015 yn darparu ffeithiau cynhwysfawr am deledu, radio, y wasg ac yr allbwn ar-lein yng Nghymru ers 2008. O safbwynt teledu mae cynnwys yr Adroddiad yn rhoi safbwynt cyfannol o’r cyd-destun yng Nghymru a thu hwnt. Cynigir crynodeb gweithredol yma. Mae’r adroddiad llawn 145-Tudalen yn cynnwys adolygiad o ddatblygiad polisi trwy olrhain dyfodiad materion allweddol. Y Sefydliad Materion Cymreig yw melin drafod annibynnol mwyaf blaenllaw Cymru.
Bernard J. Mulholland offers a short submission in which he argues that an overall failure of investment into Northern Irish television and film industry makes it comparatively disadvantageous to other regions of the United Kingdom. There is a strong case to be made, Mulholland asserts ‘that the Northern Ireland Assembly (NIA) should collect the television licence in NI and use these monies to set up our own indigenous NI state broadcaster.’
Bernard J Mullholand
The submission by the Campaign For Press and Broadcasting Freedom (CPBF), originally formulated in response to the BBC Charter review, continues to raise issues regarding the future of the BBC. For public service television to thrive, CPBF argues, ‘there should be thorough review of the current legislation governing the regulation of communications, particularly the Communications Act 2003. The goal of regulation in this area should be three-fold: (a) to support the development of public service communications across all platforms and insulated from commercial pressure (b) the development of diverse range of commercially funded outlets with clear public service obligations and (c) a root and branch reform of the system of governance across all communications.
As a self-proclaimed ‘industry outsider’, Joel Lazarus (Research Fellow, Warwick University) proposes five ways making current television ecology more democratic, including further breaking down boundaries between television producers and creating ‘the pedagogical website’ – safe spaces for viewers to share their thoughts, feelings and ideas’. Lazarus argues that the TV industry remains of central political significance and that in an era ‘that is dramatically opening up access to the means of cultural production, it may be that the current model of television ownership, production and distribution can ultimately no longer resist these forces for decentralisation.’
According to Jeremy Tunstall (Emeritus Professor, City University) Arts, Children’s, Education, Science, Religion, National History and Current Affairs are ‘seven UK TV genres which have been, and still are, in relentless decline’ despite their traditional status as essential elements of UK public service broadcasting. As UK television has become much more market-driven and commercial, public service broadcasters are asked to do more with less money, with subscription services ‘increasingly creaming off selected high cost-and-prestige genres’ such as ‘quality popular’ drama.
Teledwyr Annibynnol Cymru (TAC), which represents the independent TV production sector in Wales, argues for ensuring that independent TV companies are distributed across the country and embedded in their respective communities, so that they can reflect to the rest of the UK the stories, perspectives and ideas from their areas. This is particularly important, according to TAC, for those audiences and in areas where there is a disconnect. ‘The BBC and ITV have Wales-based services but this has not resulted in large-scale investment in production from across Wales… There is a failure to ensure that networks commissioners are a visible presence in the nation.’
ITV plc’s submission argues that the pressures on investment in original UK content is particularly acute in high-cost genres such as drama. However, public service channels in general, ITV offers, continue to play the most important part in original UK television content. Referring to Ofcom’s headline figures for 2014 about investment in original UK television content, ITV argues that the figures are even starker. While Ofcom suggests that the PSBs’ non-sport original content spend of £2.4bn accounted for 87% of spend on originated content compared to 13% of non-PSBs, ITV’s analysis suggests that at least £80m (or 23%) of the 2014 non-PSB originations spend of £350m is actually accounted for by the wider PSB channel families.
According to the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), the BBC should ‘begin discussions over, and experimentation with, different funding models’ while maintaining its public service remit ‘associated with commissioning risk and editorial protection, and separated from commercial and political interest’. The RSE further argues that the Trust model cannot be sustained, but finds that the establishment of a separate regulator (rather than Ofcom) may be more appropriate.
Channel 4’s submission to A Future for Public Service Television Inquiry points out that we are ‘at a crucial moment in the history of Public Service Broadcasting in the UK – with potential for major decisions on the sector that could have long-term ramifications. It is imperative that decisions made in the coming months are taken with care and considerations and that nothing is done that would damage the sector that has served as the foundation on which the success of many of the UK’s creative industries are built.’
Channel 4 evidence
Robert Beveridge (Visiting Professor, University of Sassari) recommends that the Scottish Parliament should be ‘fully responsible for media policy and media regulation in and for Scotland, including BBC Scotland’. According to Beveridge, there needs to be more investment and more programming in Edinburgh, as it is ‘the only capital city of its stature and status in the world to have such a poor broadcasting infrastructure.’
New international output on the PSB channels has been substantially decreased in the increasingly fragmented market, according to the International Broadcasting Trust (IBT), a media and education charity concerned with the engagement of UK citizens as global citizens. Alongside with the reduction of volume, IBT observes that the nature of international coverage has changed, with serious factual programmes being replaced by softer factual entertainment genres. Public service television, IBT argues ‘should be a platform for a range of voices and opinions which reflects the population of the UK and the wider world. This requirement should be reinforced by legislation’
International Broadcasting Trust
According to Jean K. Chalaby (City University, London), ‘the global interdependence of contemporary industrial networks must be at the forefront of broadcasting policy, for the PSBs and for all the suppliers along the content chain’. Chalaby identifies the most pressing issues facing UK producers as being related to how they can build up on TV formats’ global success; how they can retain creativity and innovation in UK production, but also, whether TV producers and broadcasters should compete with global aggregators such as Netflix and YouTube.
According to Angela Phillips (Goldsmiths, University of London), competition for higher quality is a public good that is absent in discussions about the future of Channel Four. A strong BBC is essential to upholding high quality of public service provision, Phillips argues: ‘if the BBC is allowed to wither any further, there is no reason to assume that it will be able to uphold the standards the public expects of it’.
Some of the key threats to the future of high quality public service television in the UK, according to Voice of the Listener and Viewer (VLV), are in underestimating ‘the value and impact of public service broadcasting’s contribution to diversity, democracy, education, culture and citizenship in a market where success is too often measured on the basis of a commercial model which focuses on profit and market share.’
According to the Commercial Broadcasters Association (COBA), there has been ‘a dramatic increase in investment in original content from non PSB broadcasters, who have increased spending on first-run UK programming by 43% since 2008’, making the investment by non PSBs in first run UK content nearly £600m a year.
Using the case study of the BBC economic and business news, Gary Merrill (Goldsmiths, University of London) takes a critical look at the impartiality of the BBC journalism. He observes that journalistic practices tend to ‘follow elite opinion an exclude other credible perspectives’, and calls for the need to include broader sources of opinion, beyond confines of Westminster and the City of London.
The submission by the Children’s Media Foundation (www.thechildrensmediafoundation.org) reveals that the public service provision for children is in severe decline. The BBC spent on children’s content and services in 2014 accounts for nearly 97% of total PSB spend in the genre, compared to ITV and Channel 5 who commission almost nothing. The international channels, including Netflix and Amazon commission very little content that focuses on the UK.
The Childrens Media Foundation
Jeanette Steemers (Communications and Media Research Institute (CAMRI), University of Westminster) argues that ‘there needs to be a better understanding of the children’s media landscape beyond narrow issues of funding and the future of children’s television production, that also considers the degree to which commercial providers in the online sphere should also be subject to regulation when it comes to children.’
‘No public service broadcaster in the UK offers systematic programming across the full age range of children (0 – 17)’ according to Sonia Livingstone and Claire Local (Media Policy Project, Department of Media and Communications, London School of Economics and Political Science). While children engage with all kinds of content on variety of devices, television set remains to be one of the most popular ways of engaging with public service content.
Sonia Livingstone and Claire Local
In considering the balance of payment between television platforms and public service television, the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom (CPBF) argues that the supply of platforms which operate in the public interest is essential and the removal of must offer/must carry provision would limit the audience experience, undermine access and ‘provide a further incentive for commercial PSB operators to call for less regulation’.
The Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom
According to some recent studies, international revenues of UK indie sector has trebled in the past decade, but Natasha Cox (television and documentary producer) observes how increased competition as well as growing focus on international sales stunt creative freedoms within the sector. According to Cox, building new structures between public service broadcasters and independent sector is essential to enable fairer competition between independent TV companies, and would enable delivering a broader range of public service television content.
Chris Tryhorn (freelance journalist and researcher) asks whether we should perhaps define public service television less generally; ‘should we be calling ITV and Channel 5 ‘public service broadcasters’ when this is far from a sufficient description for them? According to Tryhorn, ‘the renewal of the BBC’s royal charter provides an opportunity for a tighter definition, which could then feed into the discussions around Channel 4’s remit and any future regulatory burden imposed on ITV or Channel 5.’
The BBC’s submission positions itself within the UK TV sector market, outlines its substantial and consistent contribution to the creative economy and identifies key challenges facing public service broadcasting in the 21st century. In order to secure a strong, open and independent BBC, the submission argues that PSB regulatory framework needs to be reformed, including enabling more effective access and prominence of the publicly-funded content.
The BBC as ‘a unique public sector cultural organisation’, according to John Ellis (Royal Holloway, University of London), and broadcasting is no longer the only way of carrying out its mission to inform, educate and entertain. ‘If the BBC genuinely believes that TV will migrate online – which after all is the rationale for BBC3 a a broadcast service’, Ellis argues, the next obvious stage is linking licence fee to i-Player and not broadcasting.
According to Einar Thorsen (Bournemouth University) the freedom to innovate is one of the core purposes of public service television. Focusing on the BBC’s contribution to digital and multi-platform media, Thorsen argues for strengthening of the commitment and inclusion of web and mobile platforms in the delivery of public service.
Dan Jackson (Bournemouth University) recognises the lasting need for public service values in the broadcasting environment which specifically puts citizens first. Focusing on TV news as a genre that most directly addresses ‘the world in which citizens operate’, Jackson argues for ownership and regulatory interventions that can protect news organisations from market pressures.
Robin Foster (an adviser on strategy, policy and regulation in the media and communications sectors) argues that a changing television ecology can be seen as an opportunity to stabilise and even improve public service television, if a new leaner and less centralised approach is applied.
According to Catherine Johnson (University of Nottingham), ‘there is a strong argument that as traditional broadcast and internet services merge, the case for PSB becomes stronger’. While US market leads on the development of commercial VOD television services such as Netflix, increased choice of VOD on offer and fragmentation of audiences tend to prioritise the demographics that are most able to pay, with economically disadvantaged audiences being under-served. Furthermore, Johnson argues for the increasing value and importance of the element of trust in content providers, with the UK’s PSBs in the leading position, as they are mandated by regulation to serve the pubic’s needs over the other interests. ‘In our highly mediated society, PSBs can instead provide media spaces that are independent from partisan commercial or political interests and encourage encounters with a broad range of ideas, opinions and cultures that are vital for a healthy society and democracy.’
‘Television is and will be a main factor in influencing the values and moral standards of our society’, and thus ‘by its nature broadcasting must be in a constant and sensitive relationship with the moral condition of society.’ The cultural historian Julian Petley (Brunel University) examines visionary and enduring values of the Pilkington Report.
According to Philip Ramsey (University of Nottingham Ningbo China), ‘the debate over PSB often seems to discount the fact that the commercial PSBs play a vital role within public service television outside of the BBC.’ Ramsey identifies strengthening of the first-run originations quotas as vital to maintaining a robust public service television system.
According to Equity, the UK trade union for professional performers and creative practitioners, fluctuations in the level of investment in television content production during the last ten years had a huge knock-on effect on the employment prospects and job security of performers as well as other creative workers in the sector. Equity raised particular concerns over the new obligation given to the BBC to provide free licences for the over 75s. This obligation, Equity states, is inappropriate ‘as it confers social policy responsibilities on to the BBC and is likely to lead to a significant shortfall in BBC funding post 2018’ which will inevitably lead to large scale job losses, content budget cuts and service closures.
According to Garry Whannel (Journalism and the Olympic Games Research Group, University of Bedfordshire), ‘[d]ue to the transformation of sporting events into globally distributed commodities, which attract massive sums in the form of television rights payments, since 1990 it has become increasingly difficult for public service broadcasters to maintain a range of sports broadcasting as live rights for major sports have been obtained by operators of subscription channels. The impact of this has been to diminish our national shared cultural life.’
Robert Picard (Reuters Institute, University of Oxford) identifies the lack of reasoned debate and persuasive evidence as key factors shaping the future of public service television. According Picard, ‘Public service broadcasting must not be considered in isolation from developments in commercial broadcasting and the content that is provided by broadcast and digital audiovisual services as a whole. ‘
James Thickett and David Mahoney’s presentation summarises Ofcom’s Third Review of Public Service Broadcasting’s key findings. It addresses the questions to what extent the PSB television channels have fulfilled the purposes of public service broadcasting, and makes recommendations how to maintain and strengthen public service broadcasting in the future.
James Thickett and David Mahoney presentation