Thursday April 29th 2021
Due to Covid restrictions VLV held its Spring Conference 2021 online.
At a time when the future of public service broadcasting (PSB) is under scrutiny, we were delighted to hear from leaders in the industry who reflected on the success of UK broadcasting as well as the challenges it faces in the future. How broadcasting delivers public service content across a range of platforms, rather than simply on TV channels, is a key issue which is challenging broadcasters, Ofcom and the government.
The first session focused on Channel 4, the UK’s only publicly-owned advertiser-funded PSB and was chaired by Lord Michael Grade, a member of the government’s PSB advisory panel and former CEO of Channel 4. Alex Mahon, the CEO of Channel 4, explained how challenging the past year had been, with ad income much lower than usual, but also said there were high points, such as the success of C4’s drama It’s a Sin.
The second session was with Lord Terry Burns, who recently stood down as Chair of Ofcom. This session was chaired by Dame Colette Bowe, former VLV President and former Chair of Ofcom. Lord Burns reflected on the past twenty years during which he has been working in broadcasting policy – from the 2005 BBC Charter Review, the explosion of channels when digital TV arrived, to the challenge of maintaining the prominence of public service broadcasting in a world of online streaming.
The third session of the morning was a panel discussion on whether UK impartiality regulation is fit for purpose. Chaired by Mark Damazer CBE we had five expert speakers: Professor Stephen Cushion of Cardiff University, Lord Tom McNally, broadcaster Julia Hartley Brewer, Rachel Corp, Editor of ITV News and Stewart Purvis CBE, former Editor in Chief of ITN and Ofcom Partner for Content and Standards. There was consensus among the speakers that maintaining accuracy in news is essential if audience trust is to be maintained and all the speakers hoped that the UK could avoid going down the route seen in America where news channels are not required to be impartial.
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