SUBMISSION: Five Ideas for Democratising Television

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.’ Read the submission in full here.

IN THE NEWS: Your chance to shape future of public service television in Northern Ireland

We are holding an inquiry event with special emphasis on the situation here in Northern Ireland next Monday, April 4, at 1pm. It’s being held at the Coleraine campus of Ulster University and has a great line-up of speakers including Michael Wilson (UTV), Margo Harkin (Besom Productions), Ian Kennedy (formerly with Creative Skillset), Pat Loughrey (former head of nations and regions at the BBC) and Colm Murphy (Ulster University).

The inquiry is crucial, because established habits are changing fast. For example, we’ve seen a significant decline in consumption, particularly among younger audiences, as well as the rise of new streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon, which offer alternatives to the established channels. In this volatile environment, Northern Ireland presents us with some specific challenges.

First, figures from the TV regulator Ofcom show that broadcast TV viewing appears to be falling faster here than in other parts of the UK, with a decline of 15 minutes a day – more than twice that of Scotland. It also appears that it’s the public service channels that have been hardest hit, given that Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK in which the share of viewing of these public service channels has fallen below 50%. A significantly higher proportion of respondents told Ofcom that they were watching fewer programmes on public service channels than anywhere else in the UK. Now, this may be because of the widespread availability of RTE services, but it is worth reflecting on whether our main channels are sufficiently attentive to the needs and interests of citizens in Northern Ireland.

Read the article in full in today’s Belfast Telegraph

SUBMISSION: Television Genres in Relentless Decline

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. Read Tunstall’s submission in full here.

INTERVIEW: Lord Puttnam on BBC Radio Ulster

Listen here to this morning’s interview with Lord Puttnam on BBC Radio Ulster’s Good Morning Ulster, in which, amongst other issues, Lord Puttnam addresses a worrying audience decline for public service television in Northern Ireland. Our next Inquiry Event for Northern Ireland takes place on Monday 4th April 2016 in Coleraine, with the following speakers: Michael Wilson (UTV), Ian Kennedy (ex BBC and Creative Skillset), Margo Harkin (Besom Productions), Pat Loughrey (Goldsmiths, University of London and former Head of Nations & Regions, BBC) and Colm Murphy (Ulster University). The event is chaired by Maire Messenger-Davies (Ulster University).

The event is free but registration is required on Eventbrite

SUBMISSION: TAC and the Importance of Safeguarding the Interests of Welsh Viewers and Citizens

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.’ Read the submission in full here.