Ofcom to Mull Views on UK Public Service Broadcasting

27 August 2004

Following stages one and two of its public service broadcasting review carried out earlier this year -- investigation followed by consultation -- the British government's multimedia regulator Ofcom is set to embark on stage three: recommendation.

Organisations and individual responding to the consultation phase have urged Ofcom to explore new ways of maintaining and strengthening PSB in the long-term.

Ofcom itself has already exhorted the nation's broadcast flagship, the BBC, to "reaffirm its position as the standard setter" for high quality public service broadcasting and reinforced the importance of achieving digital switchover.

The main thrust of input from other sources confirms a wish that the BBC remains a "strong public institution". But at the same time respondents want the review to ponder how best to uphold standards of 'quality' and 'innovation' [without defining these lofty ethereal terms.] Also the model of governance and regulation required to achieve the desired standards.

There is consensus among respondents that the scale and pace of digital change has strong implications for PSB and that Ofcom must find new ways of regulating the sector.

Topping the pile of issues in Ofcom's in-tray is whether non-public service broadcasters should be required to broadcast PSB programmes -- the bane of most commercial companies' bottom line, albeit a cause that was advocated with enthusiasm in their franchise pitches.

Respondents have also urged that Ofcom considers whether the digital switchover will affect the ability of commercial channels to meet their PSB obligations over the next five years.

Based on this torrent of input from the broadcast industry, Ofcom now dives into the third phase of its review. High on the agenda is drafting a firm definition of PSB, its purpose and scope; and whether the current PSB model is sustainable in the future.

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