Public Service Broadcasting: UK Watchdog Starts Second Review

12 September 2007

LONDON: British communications regulator Ofcom on Tuesday embarked on its second review of the nation's public service television broadcasting.

It will examine the extent to which the public objectives of PSB are met and assess options for maintaining and strengthening its quality in future.

The body's bureaucrats are clearly in for a beanfeast for the next fifteen months at very least, with the review expected to clank to an end early in 2009.

Ofcom's first review published in 2005 detected continued demand for PSB. However, it concluded that the existing model of ensuring PSB provision by non-state-funded channels, if unchanged, would not survive transition to a wholly multichannel world.

Some media observers believe it probable that the new review will become a platform for commercial TV channels to lobby for an opt-out from their PSB obligations - most seeing them as revenue-negative and the prerogative of the state-funded BBC.

Ofcom observes that the media landscape has evolved rapidly since it concluded the first PSB Review in early 2005. In the light of which Ofcom is to zero-in on new areas of focus for PSB2.

  • Specifically the financial review of state-owned but commercially funded Channel 4. This highlighted the considerable uncertainties for the channel and for commercial public service broadcasters more generally.

  • Concerning the latter, areas of focus include the future of news broadcasts (on which Ofcom published a report in July), and children's television, where a report is due in early October. It is important that any policy proposals arising from this study are considered in the context of a wider strategy for public service broadcasting overall.
Says Ofcom ceo Ed Richards: "Public Service Broadcasting still has an important role to play and the review will help maintain and strengthen its quality in the new market conditions.

"However, the way PSB is delivered and consumed is changing radically. The potential for new services to deliver public service content beyond traditional television is already here, and should be exploited."

To view the complete terms of reference for the second review click here.

Data sourced from Ofcom (UK); additional content by WARC staff