High UK Programme Investment Depends on BBC, Study Argues

16 October 2003

Investment in home-grown TV shows by all UK broadcasters would be under threat if the government changes the way the publicly funded BBC is financed.

So claims a new report by consultancy Oliver & Ohlbaum, which argues that the "ecology" of British television must be preserved to maintain the high levels of spend in domestic programming. Such shows currently make up three-quarters of the nation's TV content.

The report was commissioned by the BBC, whose role and funding is under government review. And it just so happens that the study's findings support the broadcaster's argument that the licence fee – the annual tax on TV households that finances the BBC – should be retained.

According to Oliver & Ohlbaum, British investment in new, quality programming is higher than anywhere else in the world, working out at $75 (€64.37; £44.91) per person per year. This is higher than the $65 in the US, $52 in Germany and $43 in France.

The BBC accounts for 40% of the £3.2 billion annual investment through its spending of the licence fee. Commercial rivals such as ITV, Channel 4 and Five, argues the report, have to maintain high spending on new shows to keep up.

"Far from crowding out investment in domestic programming by commercial TV, the BBC may well encourage such investment," the study contends.

It points to ITV's investment in home-grown shows, which is 20% higher than its legal requirement. Oliver & Ohlbaum believes the only way to safeguard such high spend is to maintain the licence fee.

Data sourced from: Independent.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff