New regulation is needed for public service broadcasting to be able to compete in the online world, according to Ofcom.
The findings come from the media regulation’s review of public service broadcasting Small Screen: Big Debate. The review has spoken to more than 70 stakeholders, including broadcasters, streaming services, academics and analysts in the UK and abroad.
In its principal findings, published today, show public service content still “matters hugely” to people and society.
This is demonstrated in news coverage where more than seven in 10 viewers place importance on regional news. Content made by the PSBs around the UK is particularly valued with viewers taking pride in seeing their own area on screen.
Children’s, formal education, and religious programming made specifically for the UK is largely restricted to the PSBs.
However, audiences are continuing to abandon the PSBs – the BBC, ITV, STV (Scotland), Channel 4, S4C (Wales) and Channel 5 – in favour of global streaming and online services with their vast libraries and personalised content. Last year, only 38% of 16-34s’ viewing (and 67% among all adults) was to traditional broadcast content.
At the same time public service broadcasting is facing what the regulator describes as a “triple funding threat” as falls in advertising revenue have joined with the need to grow digital services while maintaining traditional ones. Added to this is the coronavirus pandemic that has raised costs and quickened viewers shift to online platforms.
Ofcom says a new framework is needed to establish clear goals for public service broadcasters, with greater choice over how they achieve them. Companies should be required to set out, measure and report on their plans, with Ofcom holding them to account.
The regulator also wants to bring in rules to ensure PSB content is carried on different online platforms and in the New Year plans to launch a review of how the UK production industry operates.
It also suggests new providers could help deliver public-service media in future.
A consultation on the findings runs until March 16, 2021.