UK Commercial Network Gets PSB Break from Regulator

09 February 2005

UK media watchdog Ofcom has published its final proposals on the future of public service broadcasting.

Among its most significant recommendations is that the country's biggest commercial broadcaster, ITV, will be allowed to cut back its PSB obligations.

Ofcom says ITV can halve its low rated non-news regional religious, children's and documentary programmes to just ninety minutes weekly, thereby creating more airtime for for shows that attract more viewers and, by extension, ad revenues.

However, the regulator insists the broadcaster must maintain quality regional news programs and, beginning next year, commission half its programming from outside London.

Ofcom also remains to be convinced of Channel 4's case for public money. The state owned, ad-funded broadcaster claims it faces a £100 million ($186m, €145m) deficit over the next ten years which can only be met by an injection of taxpayers' cash.

The regulator will look again at Channel 4's finances but, in the meantime, it urges the broadcaster to concentrate on "self-help including cost savings, commercial ventures and alliances".

As for the state-funded BBC, Ofcom says it "should remain the cornerstone of PSB - strong, independent and properly funded by the licence fee".

Although claiming it doesn't want to become involved in the broadcaster's present system of governance, Ofcom avers "where the BBC is proposing new services, the impact assessments of those services on the market as a whole should be carried out by Ofcom rather than advisers appointed by the BBC governors".

Data sourced from Ofcom; additional content by WARC staff