Tag Archives: psb

Jeremy Hunt: Providing local content should be condition of broadcasters’ licences

Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt will say today that he intends to make the provision of local content a condition of the licences given to commercial broadcasters like ITV, Channel 4 and Five.

In a speech today to the Royal Television Society, Hunt will also tell those channels with a public service broadcasting remit (PSBs) that retaining a prime position in the Electronic Programme Guide or future equivalent would depend on their commitment to “content with a social or cultural benefit”.

I will begin the process of redefining public service broadcasting for the digital age by asking Ofcom to look at how we can ensure that enough emphasis is given to the delivery of local content.

Of course not all PSBs will want, or be able, to be local broadcasters. But I’m determined that we should recognise the public value in those that do.

Echoing the sentiments of his party’s ‘big society’ idea, Hunt will warn broadcasters about not investing in local news:

If we remain centralised, top-down and London-centric – in our media provision as in the rest of government – we will fail to reflect the real demand for stronger local identity that has always existed and that new technologies are now allowing us to meet.

Hunt will add that he has been “strongly encouraged by the serious thought that the BBC has been giving to how it might partner with new local media providers”.

He is expected to say that, despite the UK “fast becoming one of the most atomised societies in the world”, those looking back in the future will see its media as “deeply, desperately centralised.”

They will be astonished to find that three out of five programmes made by our public service broadcasters are produced in London.

They will note that there is nothing but national news on most of the main channels, beamed shamelessly from the centre.

And they will discover token regional news broadcasts that have increasingly been stretched across vast geographical areas – with viewers in Weymouth watching the same so-called “local” story as viewers in Oxford. Viewers in Watford watching the same story as viewers in Chelmsford.

Hunt will also set out his vision for local TV provision:

My vision is of a landscape of local TV services broadcasting for as little as one hour a day;

Free to affiliate to one another – formally or informally – in a way that brings down costs;

Free to offer nationwide deals to national advertisers;

Able to piggyback existing national networks – attracting new audiences and benefitting from inherited ones at the same time;

And able to exploit the potential of new platform technologies such as YouView and mobile TV to grow their service and improve their cost-effectiveness.

In June, Hunt scrapped plans for new local news networks set up by the previous government. Hunt called the plans for Independently Funded News Consortia (IFNC) in Tyne Tees and Borders, Scotland, and Wales “misguided” and claimed they “risked turning a whole generation of media companies into subsidy junkies, focusing all their efforts not on attracting viewers but on persuading ministers and regulators to give them more cash”.

Read Jeremy Hunt’s RTS speech in full here (PDF)

Digital Spy: Viewer rating of PSB goes up; programming hours down, says Ofcom

In 2008 63 per cent of viewers saw public service broadcasting (PSB) channels in the UK as ‘well-produced and high quality’, new figures from industry regulator Ofcom suggest.

But funding for original programming and the number of programming hours fell year-on-year in 2008, its third annual PSB report suggested.

Full post at this link…

FT.com: EC scrutiny for new PSB activities

“Moves by public sector broadcasters within the EU to expand their activities into new areas, such as mobile TV and video on demand, would still be subject to prior independent scrutiny under revisions to controversial proposals published by Brussels on Friday,” reports the Financial Times.

Full story at this link…

Jason DaPonte: BeebCamp and new ways of working at the BBC

Summing up the BBC’s ‘unconference’ event for its digital staff, BeebCamp, Jason DaPonte imagines a new way for the BBC to work:

“Each year you pay your license fee to the BBC in exchange for programming that you own and control the destiny of. YOU decide what gets made because YOU decide which ideas, programmes, themes, seasons, etc you want to invest in. This could be done via an online marketplace…” writes DaPonte.

Full post at this link…

Channel 4 (part 3): BBC Worldwide could benefit from merger, says Duncan

More comments from Channel 4 CEO, Andy Duncan, at the House of Lords Communications meeting:

  • ‘Synergy’, ‘Pluraility’ and ‘Radicalism’ appeared to be the keywords playing on Andy Duncan’s mind, as he explained his vision of a merger between Channel 4 and BBC Worldwide.
  • Channel 4’s CEO felt the broadcasters could be beneficial to each other, holding on to their ‘distinctive’ brands while planning bold strategies for a bigger and brighter future. The question was, according to Duncan, ‘how much synergy is there?’
  • He highlighted BBC Worldwide’s DVD venture as an example, positioning Channel 4 as the ideal candidate to, ‘unlock some of the constraints’ placed on the BBC in the cross promotion of this enterprise.
  • Any notion of the station’s identity being absorbed and lost as a result of the plan was shrugged off by both Andy Duncan and Anne Bulford, the organisation’s financial director. “At heart, the culture would be aligned,” she claimed. “You have to maximise the commercial revenue you can get from that.”
  • Despite claims that the channel would effectively be syphoning the BBC licence fee ‘through the side door’, Duncan remained insistent that talk of merger was only a partial solution.
  • Duncan indicated direct funding from the licence fee could still be ‘a valid option’ in the long term. Pooled resources, radical action and strategic thinking would be needed if value were to be added to the organisations.

Channel 4 (part 2): Duncan says channel is still key source of cutting-edge content

Channel 4 CEO Andy Duncan also said at yesterday’s Communications Committee in the House of Lords that:

  • Channel 4 is fulfilling its role as a Public Service Broadcaster (PSB) by functioning as a gateway to new talent, innovative programming and contemporary content.
  • Commercial television was simply unable to invest in or provide the content Channel 4 is recognised for.
  • However, when challenged about the function of programming such as Endemol’s ‘Big Brother’, Duncan was forced to concede that it served more as a source of income than it did as the ground breaking concept it was billed as 10 years ago.
  • Digital channels such as E4 and 4Music were hailed as some of Channel 4’s more recent successes. Despite this, it remained unclear as to how these services were able to fit within the remit of Public Service Broadcasting. Current PSB legislation was ‘archaic’ in this respect, Duncan said. In addition, he said, online services such as Channel 4 Learning showed their requirements as a PSB had evolved successfully beyond the original vision of the law makers.

Channel 4 (part 1): Station plans to focus more on regional content

Following up on yesterday’s Ofcom round-up, here are further reports from the House of Lords, where Channel 4 chief executive, Andy Duncan spoke at a Communications Committee hearing.

  • Channel 4 is unlikely to move away from London in a bid to save money, although it is keen to expand its influence around the UK. London was the centre of the UK media industry, Andy Duncan explained to the committee. Savings made from any move were likely to be ‘negligible’ at best.
  • Although Channel 4 is already active in places such as Glasgow, Duncan admitted the station had relatively little presence in Scotland and other parts of the UK, outside England.
  • The station’s CEO said that they were adept at creating good quality ‘one-off’ shows. The challenge was to create more opportunities for ‘returning’ series based in the region.
  • Certain Channel 4 IP, such as ‘Dispatches’ and ‘Cutting Edge’ already allow for the allocation of programming and resources focused in and around the country.

Ofcom’s PSB review – a round-up

In its public service broadcasting (PSB) blueprint, UK industry regulator Ofcom made a series of recommendations for Channel 4, the BBC and ITV – there’s a video explaining the report on Ofcom’s YouTube channel, but for those of you wanting something more textual here’s our round-up:

Key points:

  • There needs to be alternative public services to the BBC – echoing Lord Carter’s comments last week
  • More choice for regional news consumers
  • Retention of the licence fee and no top-slicing
  • News content for ITV and Five, but limit level of public service commitments

Recommendations were given for each of the UK’s broadcasters in turn, but given news this week of potential mergers with Five or the BBC and yesterday’s pledge to invest £500 million in regional production and programming, here’s a synopsis of the points directed at Channel 4:

  • “A new organisation, with public purposes at its heart, should be established; Channel 4 is well-placed to be central to this.” This could potentially be funded by a chunk of the £130m-a-year BBC licence fee digital switchover surplus.
  • Full range of digital content and news and programmes from outside of London needed
  • Merger with BBC Worldwide, Five or other organisations not ruled out, but “[P]artnerships should complement market provision and ensure economic sustainability, accountability, choice and competition. New governance and accountability arrangements would be essential.” (Report from Telegraph.co.uk, says Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards said there is ‘more of a tension’ surrounding a possible deal with Five)

Following the regulator’s market impact assessment late last year, which formed part of the BBC Trust’s decision to reject local online video plans, the report also reviewed PSB in the nations and regions:

  • Potentially good news for local newspapers in England (welcomed by the Newspaper Society) – “Ofcom believes that the Government should plan for an alternative way of securing regional news for the devolved nations and English regions from 2011”.
  • Plans for ITV and BBC to share some resources and infrastructure in England will be reviewed – in particular, how sustainable this model is.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has expressed concerns over Ofcom’s recommendations for ITV Local – suggesting a deal had already been agreed between the channel and regulator rendering a consultation on cuts to its local news provision meaningless.

“Ofcom has presented its proposals as a framework for saving public service broadcasting, but the reality is that this report has given ITV the go-ahead to cut its local output. It means fewer local news programmes and fewer local stories. As hundreds of editorial staff walk out of the door, they’ll be taking the links between ITV and local communities with them. That’s hardly in the interests of citizens and viewers,” said a statement by the union.

Ed Richards, Ofcom chief executive, gives his thoughts on the review in this Comment is Free article and on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.