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Ofcom: PSB on-demand services not making up for loss of live broadcast viewing

New report looks at how public service broadcasting has delivered for UK audiences over a five-year period

Ofcom has released a new report looking at how public service broadcasting (PSB) has delivered for UK audiences over a five-year period (2014 – 2018).

The Communications Act 2003 sets out the purposes of PSB and the television services responsible for their delivery. These services are: the BBC television services, ITV and STV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and S4C.

The review, titled Small Screen: Big Debate, also looks at the contribution other broadcasters and on-demand services have made to the PSB objectives.

Among its key findings are:

  • Audiences continue to highly value the purposes of PSB, including trustworthy news and programmes that show different aspects of UK life and culture.
  • And although audiences still have generally positive views of the PSB channels, viewing, especially among younger people, continues to decline. Online and on-demand services like the BBC iPlayer and All4 have not to date fully made up for the loss of live broadcast viewing.
  • The PSB channels have generally fulfilled the PSB remit. Investment by the PSB channels has also played an important role in supporting the UK’s creative economy, including an increasingly vibrant production sector across the nations and regions.
  • However, maintaining the current level and range of programmes is a challenge for the PSB channels. At the same time, other providers such as Sky and Netflix are offering both a large volume and wide range of high-quality content to UK audiences.
  • The extended choice in content and growing investment in original UK programming is generally positive both for audiences and for the sector as a whole. However, there are some significant differences in the mix of genres offered by different providers as well as the availability of this content to all audiences in the UK.

According to Ofcom, Small Screen: Big Debate takes a different approach from its previous PSB reviews. Its purpose is to “provoke a broad and dynamic national conversation involving viewers, the broadcasting industry, Parliament, and regulators about how the benefits of PSB might best be assured for the future.”