Launching a national debate on the future of Public Service Broadcasting, the communications regulator says there is now unprecedented competition from global on-demand and internet services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube.
Ofcom wants to update rules to ensure the traditional PSB TV channels (BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, STV, Channel 4, S4C and Channel 5.) are prominent and easy to find within programme guides.
There will also be minimum levels of prominence for channels including the BBC News Channel and CBeebies, and local TV services.
Ofcom cannot extend prominence rules on its own, so the regulator is calling on Government to make that possible.
It’s also making recommendations to Government for new legislation to help ensure PSB programmes and players are also clearly visible on internet-connected devices, such as smart TVs, set-top boxes and streaming sticks.
It intends that Small Screen: Big Debate – will become a national forum to discuss the future of public service broadcasting on TV and online.
Kevin Bakhurst, Ofcom’s Group Director for Content and Media Policy, said: “Our traditional broadcasters are among the finest in the world. But they’re facing unprecedented challenges from competition and new technology.”
However, Sky’s Stephen van Rooyen, CEO UK & Ireland, argued that Sky had long since played a “crucial role” in helping the PSBs fulfil their obligations to viewers, while delivering them significant reach and revenues. “The Government should not seek to further regulate the regulated, but instead level the playing field with other platforms. Any extension to the prominence framework must be accompanied by obligations on the PSBs to make sure their on-demand content and services are freely available to platforms without restriction and, as Ofcom have recognised, must clearly fulfil public service requirements.”
Ofcom has also welcomed plans by the commercial PSBs to expand their investment in children’s content. This includes a commitment by ITV will increase the budget of CITV by almost 10%, to fund more original commissions for 6-12 year olds, and develop a new online news and current-affairs offering for 12-15s. Channel 4 will develop a new digital-first service for 13-16 year olds through a new YouTube channel and Channel 5 will double the budget for its Milkshake children’s output, and increase its original programme hours from 29 to 50 annually by 2021.