Public service broadcasting remains essential to the UK media and losing it would leave UK society and democracy worse off…An essential feature of public service broadcasting is its universality, free at the point of use after paying the licence fee: both the availability and affordability of public service broadcasters are unmatched by other services….
Public Service Broadcasting: As Vital as Ever
VLV provided oral and written evidence to the Lords select Committee on Communications and Digital earlier in 2019 for its inquiry into the sustainability of public service broadcasting in the age of subscription streaming services. Many of VLV’s key policy positions have been supported in the Committee’s latest report.
Public Service Broadcasting: as vital as ever concludes that public service broadcasting still makes a significant contribution to the health of the UK as a nation and it makes a number of recommendations for Government, including the creation of an independent commission to set the level of BBC funding. The report also strongly opposes the BBC having taken on responsibility for deciding whether to provide free TV licences for those aged over 75.
The report’s key conclusions and recommendations include:
- The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport should consult sporting bodies, broadcasters and the public with a view to increasing modestly the number of listed events. This could include events such as The Ashes and The Open Golf Championship.
- Responsibility for free TV licences for over-75s should be off the table in future licence fee negotiations between the government and the BBC.
- There should be an independent and transparent process for setting the licence fee which funds the BBC. To this end, the Committee recommends that the Government should establish an independent body, the BBC Funding Commission, to oversee the process for setting the licence fee. This should be implemented by 2021, in time for the mid-Charter review and the next round of negotiations on the licence fee.
- The Committee does not think that there is sufficient evidence that the proposed ban on high in fat, salt and sugar advertising before the 9pm watershed would significantly reduce childhood obesity.
- The prominence regime should be updated for the digital age so that the public service broadcasters’ content is easily discoverable. The Government should introduce legislation to implement a new prominence framework in line with Ofcom’s recommendations.
- As part of its review of public service broadcasting, Ofcom should review the Terms of Trade which were originally introduced to protect independent producers from the dominance of public service broadcasters. It suggests that, given the degree of consolidation in the market, Ofcom should consider whether the Terms of Trade should still apply to larger production companies.