Ofcom moves to protect PSB from streaming challenge

Protecting the little guy.

by Andy Bassett Jul 5, 2019 at 3:13 PM

  • Movies & TV News

    Ofcom moves to protect PSB from streaming challenge
    PSB - Public Service Broadcasting - may not leap to everyone's mind when it comes to listing favourite TV shows or programmes but the service, which provides valuable information and community oriented programming, now faces unprecedented challenges in the new era of broadcasting. Ofcom, the government approved body for oversight of broadcasting regulation and competition is making sure it is not forgotten about in this brave new streaming world.
    A package of measures designed to protect PSB has been put forward by Ofcom, including updating the rules that govern the prominence PSB has in TV schedules and recommending the legislation required to enact this, endorsing PSB plans that broadcasters have already committed to and the launch of an open forum for a full debate on the future of Public Service Broadcasting.

    Put simply, Public Service Broadcasting is designed to be of benefit to the audience rather than serve purely commercial or biased agendas. This means provisions are in place around particular genres, such as children’s programmes, current affairs, factual content, and programmes made specifically for UK and regional viewers.

    There are already measures in place to safeguard current PSB and chief amongst these is the prominence given to current Public Service Broadcasters in the TV guides and schedules. This is why viewers always see BBC1, BBC2, ITV1 and Channel 4 etc. first, and always in the same order, across a variety of TV listings, both traditional and electronic - ever wonder why Sky gives the BBC channel 101 and its own Sky One only 106? Well, this is the reason why.

    However, Ofcom’s reach only extends so far and the visibility afforded traditional methods of broadcasting PSB channels cannot be imposed on newer services provided over the internet. So, even if PSB is present, there is nothing to stop OTT streaming services burying it in the schedules and this could be a problem for a generation of ‘cord-cutting’ viewers who are used to heading straight for Netflix or YouTube without a second glance at an EPG.

    Ofcom’s group director for content and media policy, Kevin Bakhurst, said: “Our traditional broadcasters are among the finest in the world. But they’re facing unprecedented challenges from competition and new technology.” He went on to add, “So we are ensuring their channels remain easy to find on TV guides, and convening a national debate on the future of public service media – including how we safeguard its benefits for future generations.

    In order to extend current prominence rules, legislation will need to be debated and passed to ensure the same degree of visibility on “major viewing platforms, such as smart TVs, set-top boxes and streaming sticks.” Ofcom’s role will be to advise and make recommendations to the government in this regard.

    Having entered into discussions with ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 last year about their plans for furthering their commitments to PSB, Ofcom is now supporting the range of measures the broadcasters have come up with, including increasing budgets for existing platforms aimed at children, funding for commissions aimed at 6-12 year olds, a Channel 4 YouTube channel for 13-16 year olds, and online news and current-affairs aimed at teenagers.

    Ofcom will be releasing a report later in the year which examines the state of the PSB over the period 2014 - 2018. Further to this, the governing body has launched a national debate forum called Small Screen: Big Debate which will invite discussion, opinion and input from broadcasters, production companies, industry bodies, government, Parliament, national and regional representatives and viewers’ groups on the wider questions going forward. Topics to be covered includes, where PSB should be made available, who should provide it and how to guarantee a mix of high-quality UK content online, all in the context of a rapidly changing broadcasting landscape.

    In a joint statement, the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, S4C and STV said they welcomed the recommendations.

    As public service broadcasters we are committed to giving audiences the best British programmes and impartial and trusted news. Viewers say they value our content and want to be able to find it easily.

    These recommendations would ensure viewers can easily find public service broadcasting (PSB) content across a range of devices including smart TVs, set-top boxes and streaming sticks, and bring the rules up to date for the digital age.”

    What does PSB mean to you and is it important to preserve it as a protected and regulated source of information? Would AVForums members miss PSB if it succumbed to commercial pressure from the streaming giants? Or should broadcasters concentrate on entertainment and escapism? Let us know in the discussion thread.

    Source: www.advanced-television.com, www.trustedreviews.com, www.digitaltveurope.com
    Image Source: www.mobilenewscwp.co.uk, www1.uwe.ac.uk

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