A report on the future of public service broadcasting in the United Kingdom says that changes will be required to ensure that the system remains sustainable in the context of an increasingly global media market. It recommends retaining the television licence fee funding model until at least 2038. Meanwhile, it suggests that public service broadcasters should collaborate on a single online video platform.
The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee has published its cross-party report, after receiving almost 100 written submissions and taken evidence from more than 20 witnesses.
The report says it is received wisdom that linear broadcasting is yesterday’s technology but despite the long-term decline in viewing it recognises that linear television remains crucial to certain audiences. It says, “a wholly online public service broadcasting system allowing for universal access is not yet viable”.
“Unless PSBs do more to attract younger audiences, the core principle of universality that underpins their existence will be threatened.” The report recommends changes to the regulatory structure to enable public service broadcasters to innovate more rapidly and easily, and to be able to compete better online.
While recognising the problems associated with the television licence fee as a funding model, it concludes that none of the available alternatives are recommended.” It says: “The Government either needs to come out with a strong alternative to the licence fee that it can put to Parliament, or strongly support the current model for at least the next Charter period (2028 – 2038) and actively aid the BBC in driving down evasion.”
The committee recommends that the regulatory requirement for prominence should be extended to online platforms and that the video on demand players of public service broadcasters should be covered by their public service broadcasting remits.
The report says that public service broadcasting programming on other streaming services should be branded with the broadcaster logo and that online video services should be required to share top line viewing data, at the very least the number of viewers, for public service programming.
The committee suggests that broadcasters should collaborate to create a ‘one-stop shop’ for their online video programming.
“Rather than waiting for the Government to help them, we recommend that PSBs help themselves by exploring options for collaboration on a single video on demand platform, and Ofcom should support PSBs in this endeavour. We call on the competition policy authorities to make clear that, given the evolution of the broadcasting landscape, there is no automatic objection to such collaboration on market dominance grounds.”