Published on: 25 March 2021 in Longform

Ofcom, DCMS and the future of Public Service Broadcasting

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The future of Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) has been a topic of much focus for government and industry in recent weeks.

Last week we submitted responses to Ofcom’s consultation ‘Small Screen, Big Debate’, which is examining ‘how to strengthen and maintain PSB for the next decade and beyond’. This week the DCMS Select committee published its report on “The Future of Public Service Broadcasting” following their recent consultation and review, which we responded to in December. In our responses to both consultations we highlighted the need to maintain a strong PSB system, the need for regulatory reform to level the playing field with global digital companies, the significant role of freelancers in the industry and emphasising that it is vital that rights holders are compensated for the use of their works in this digital world. 

Both reviews support the important role Public Service Broadcasting plays, both for audiences and the success of the production industry and its workforce. The DCMS committee’s wide-ranging report, criticises the Government for failing to act on licence fee reform and not putting in place the necessary broadband infrastructure that would facilitate other funding mechanisms. It also calls on the Government to stop the damaging speculation surrounding the licence fee. The report found that PSBs are being let down by out-of-date legislation and calls for a new broadcasting act which would enable them to compete and thrive in a new media age with a right to prominence on digital platforms. The report recommended action in 4 key areas: the need for urgent regulatory reform, particularly to update the rules around prominence; addressing the dominance of online platforms and whether they have “undue influence” on the distribution and access to PSB content; more and faster action in respect to improving representation, diversity, and the provision of Nations and Regions content; and adequate funding support from Government to remove uncertainty and ensure PSBs can continue to provide linear broadcasting while investing in on-demand provision.

Ofcom is expected to publish its Small Screen, Big Debate report findings and recommendations in the summer. We will continue to monitor these developments and engage in industry and political discussions to ensure directors’ voices are heard as the future of PSB debate continues.

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