UK Regulator Lets ITV Off PSB Hook

29 September 2008

LONDON: Britain's largest commercial broadcaster, ITV, has long blamed its southbound profits and share price on the onerous public service broadcasting obligations imposed on it by the government. A useful scapegoat for the TV firm's inability to air programmes with suffcient audience appeal.

Much relief, therefore, within the ITV bunker at last week's decision by national communications regulator Ofcom that the ailing broadcaster be allowed to reduce its PSB commitments, especially those to air regionalised news bulletins.

Such a move is likely to produce cost savings over and above the £40 million ($74.0m, €50.0m) already factored by analysts and investors into ITV's fiscal forecasts.

Rejoiced an anonymous person 'familiar with the company's strategy': "ITV has got most of what it asked Ofcom for."

The news provided some relief for the battered moneymen in London EC2 and Wall Street, boosting the broadcaster's share price by up to 8.9% at the day's close.

  • Meantime, another struggling UK broadcaster, the state-owned but ad-funded Channel 4, could receive a substantial shot in the arm if an additional Ofcom proposal bears fruit.

    This posits that the BBC be "asked" to transfer its highly profitable commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, to Channel 4 in a bid to close the latter's £235m PSB funding black hole. The BBC operation posted profits up 24% to £111 million last year.

    Ofcom's proposals, for all three entities (ITV, Channel 4 and the BBC), form part of an overarching review of public service broadcasting. All require government approval which, given their political sensitivity, cannot be taken for granted.

  • Data sourced from Financial Times and; additional content by WARC staff