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House of Lords calls for PSB support

"If we fail to support our PSBs, audiences would miss them when they're gone."

The House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee has recommended public service broadcasters (PSB) receive more support in order to compete with the rise of SVoDs.

The Committee’s report, Public service broadcasting: as vital as ever, also called on PSBs to adapt in order to cater for all audiences.

Following months of inquiry, the Committee concluded that PSB remains essential to UK media and “losing it would leave UK society and democracy worse off.”

It added that PSBs, whose production budgets are often dwarfed by those of SVoDs, are failing to appeal to the 16-34 demographic and BAME viewers; “They were not as successful as SVoDs in championing BAME representation behind the camera and in the creative process, especially at the BBC.”

The report also recommended the establishment of a new body called the BBC Funding Commission to help set the licence fee, its integrity having been undermined “by a succession of settlements which were carried out behind closed doors.”

Further recommendations included:

  • A modest increase in the number of listed free-to-air sporting events, eg. The Ashes and The Open Golf Championship
  • Changes to High-End TV tax relief and the Apprenticeship Levy, as well as a review of the Terms of Trade between PSBs and independent producers to determine whether they should still apply to larger companies
  • The Government should support PSBs in the new technological environment, and think very carefully before imposing any further regulatory or financial burdens on them. The committee does not support a levy on SVoDs at this time

“For many people, especially young people, watching TV in real time is now the exception rather than the norm,” said Lord Gilbert of Panteg, Chairman of the Committee. “While the arrival of SVoDs has created exciting opportunities for the creative sector and for audiences, particularly in drama, we are concerned by the unpredictability of future developments. PSBs provide a stable investment platform for a diverse range of content, made for UK audiences, and freely available on a reliable over the air platform.

“At a time of polarisation, PSBs play a role in unifying the country through shared experiences. Our recommendations will ensure that PSBs are able to continue to serve us and afford to make world-class programmes. If we fail to support our PSBs, audiences would miss them when they’re gone.”