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Public Service Broadcasting ‘more important than ever’ argues Bazalgette

ITV chairman delivers speech on PSBs in digital age

ITV chairman Peter Bazalgette has insisted Public Service Broadcasting is more important than ever in a speech to The Voice of the Listener and Viewer Autumn Conference today.

Bazalgette argued that while the likes of Netflix, Amazon and cable and satellite channels have made TV “ubiquitous…far from being outdated, PSB is more important today than it’s ever been…important to our democracy, to our culture and to our economy.”

Speaking about the era of ‘fake news’ and its impact on TV, Bazalgette told the conference “the existence of BBC News and ITN, supplying ITV and Channel 4, has also paved the way for the excellent Sky News. It may not technically be PSB, but it’s as far from Fox News as it is from from Russia Today.”

“We need PSB news to stay true to its philosophy but find a new audience…it should be the nutrition in the digital soup. And when was the last time you heard a news service explain or promote its principles? In future it’s going to be crucial that viewers, listeners and surfers understand the exacting standards of impartiality and sourcing that PSB adheres to,” he continued.

“If we want to cherish PSB then viewers need to be able to find its channels and its video-on-demand services. This is why DTT and Freeview are still very important to ensuring the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and 5 remain free, unmediated, universal services,” said Bazalgette. “We need long term certainty for the DTT platform. It’s spectrum that others covet but which guarantees access to precious public service content. And we need PSB channels to receive fair value from distribution platforms for our popular programming which they profit from. I note that the government’s proposed Digital Charter is all about content owners being appropriately rewarded for the content they make available online. I couldn’t agree more.”

Bazalgette also discussed ITV’s relationship with the BBC, which at times has been somewhat fractious. “At ITV we may criticise the BBC sometimes and argue it should be held more tightly to its remit. We may compete hard with Channel 4 for talent and advertising. And we may negotiate hard with Virgin, Sky and BT about the value of our content. But in the future I think our old adversaries will also be our new friends, in order to sustain public service broadcasting in the 21st Century. We’re partnering with the BBC to offer the best of British content on SVOD abroad…the service – Britbox – is already up and running in the US.”

“Along with Channel 4, Sky, Virgin and BT can also be our critical partners, with their subscriber data, in developing best-of-both-worlds television advertising: the benefits of both a mass audience and targeting,” he said. “As we update Barb to measure viewing on mobiles and game consoles, we’ll need to co-operate around a common data currency for all online audiences, ensuring commercial TV continues to be an effective competitor in the global market.”