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Ofcom are required by the Communications Act 2003 to periodically review public service broadcasting (PSB) in the UK, with a view to establishing the extent to which the PSB television channels (BBC, ITV, STV, UTV, Channel 4, Five and S4C) have fulfilled the purposes of PSB and to make recommendations as to how PSB can be maintained and strengthened in the future.
The PSB purposes are:
The current review covers the period 2008-2013 inclusive and is the third Ofcom PSB review. Previous reviews took place in February 2005 and January 2009.
Ofcom looked at PSB in light of major changes in the broadcasting industry since 2008 such as the digital switchover, the growth of broadband, mobile devices and DVRs and new services and platforms such as iPlayer and Netflix which give audiences a greater choice of how they consume content.
It also considered the impact of the decline in spend, output and viewing across the PSB channels, which it attributed in part to the growth of non PSB portfolio channels.
Ofcom found that despite the rapid change in the broadcasting industry the PSB system remains strong. PSB broadcasters are continuing to provide programming that is highly valued by audiences and are broadly delivering the purposes and objectives of PSB.
At the same time, however, audiences are not satisfied that current PSB output strengthens national/regional identity or reflects the different cultures in the UK and the provision of programming for children has continued to decline to the point that there is little UK non-animation output beyond the BBC.
Ofcom identified a number industry/social changes that may pose a risk to the future of the PSB system, such as:
In light of its duties under the Communications Act, Ofcom believed it was important to consider what could be done in the event that any of the identified risks were to materialise. They identified four key areas for further consideration and to form the basis of the consultation:
Ofcom is inviting views and comments on these initial findings. The consultation will run until the 26 February 2015 and a final report will be published in the summer of 2015.
A full copy of the report and details on how to respond to the consultation can be found here.
This article was written by Dionne Alveranga, a trainee solicitor.
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