Ofcom PSP Consultation March 2007

Final submission

Click here to view our final submission - joint endorsed by the Open Knowledge Foundation and Free Culture UK.

Draft Response

The founding of a Public Service Publisher (PSP) is an opportunity to make a significant ongoing investment in the vast landscape of public, 'open knowledge' infrastructures already developing on the Net.

We, the undersigned, feel that the PSP could play a vital role in addressing the strategic concerns of the Net as a global and national infrastructure; exploring and protecting the educational, commercial and societal possibilities of what 'public service' might mean in this new context.

We are greatly encouraged by the direction expressed by OfCom’s “new approach to public service content in the digital media age.” Our response aims to steer the development of this project in the direction our combined experience and practice suggests would be of most value to the UK public.

Firstly, we commend the suggested investment in open content and open data. In particular we urge that, where the PSP funds the generation of new content, such content should always be made available under a license such that others are free to enjoy, redistribute and, most importantly, reuse and refashion that content.

Secondly, we ask that OfCom pay special attention to the ability of the PSP to invest in architectures of participation, both by supporting the development of Free, Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) and Open Content technologies and projects and by investing in the creation of content to encourage the growth of networks around these technologies.

Thirdly, we ask that OfCom recognise the transnational nature of the networked communications environment, and refrain from sanctioning measures designed to limit the benefits derived from the PSP to UK residents alone. The PSP and the projects and content it funds should be viewed as nodes on a global network. It should be assumed that the exchange of information and content across such a global network will be to the net benefit of the UK public.

The success of an endeavour like the PSP will rely upon these details of its founding principles, and we urge OfCom to pay significant attention to those details now. For example, the PSP may commission a website for people to post and discuss short films, investing in the “architectures of participation” suggested above. But unless the use of Free/Open Source software is specified, and the resulting website platform is 'open', allowing re-use and modification by other interested parties, the PSP will not be fully meeting its public service remit. Similarly, The PSP might commission a set of short films to be placed on the website, to seed its growth as a network. But unless the PSP commission explicitly requires that the resulting work be 'open' so that others are free to use, reuse and redistribute the work, the PSP’s audience will remain ‘consumers’ of content, and the PSP will have failed to maximise the opportunities of the digital age.

Finally, the PSP should engage in advocacy and educational initiatives to enable people, organisations and companies to publish their material using open licenses, formats and technologies. It is our sincere hope that the PSP can become a strong, public voice in favour of open knowledge structures.

We welcome this and any future opportunities to respond to OfCom’s plans for the PSP.

  • The Open Knowledge Foundation
  • The Open Rights Group
  • Free Culture UK

Summarising Ofcom's March 2007 PSP Consultation paper


Broadly termed, but usefully locates PSP within broader approach. For background, see Ofcom's Digital PSB (July 2007)

  • Maintenance of the current high levels of high quality UK originations and the pressure on some core genres
    • The future of news: news is the most valued programme genre amongst viewers, but access to and viewing of television news may shift in future, especially after digital switchover. We have been assessing the future prospects for television news in the changing environment. This project aims to assess what news services may be provided in future, how the market for news is likely to develop, and the implications for plurality and quality of news provision
    • Planned work on children’s television and Nations and Regions programming: as we set out recently in Ofcom’s draft Annual Plan for 2007/8, we will also carry out further work on the future of children’s television programming and on non-news programming for the Nations and Regions of the UK.
  • Securing plurality and diversity in the wider digital media market
    • The future of Channel 4: Channel 4 has played an important role in PSB over the past quarter century, but it has raised a range of questions about the future sustainability of its model for funding public service content. Ofcom has commissioned L.E.K. Consulting to conduct a full independent financial review of Channel 4 – considering Channel 4’s financial and operating performance both now and in the future; its continuing fulfilment of its public service remit; and whether intervention may be needed to support its PSB delivery in future
    • New media forms of public service provision: in the digital age, a new organisation could provide additional innovation and plurality – we notionally described this new organisation as the Public Service Publisher, the PSP. Since publishing Digital PSB, we have carried out further work to develop a more detailed vision for the PSP – in policy, creative and in practical terms. This document publishes our work in this area.

1 Executive Summary

  • Idea originated in a 2005 publication
  • Developed by the 'Creative Forum' working group

Statutory remit

The need for a new approach
  • Changing landscape of delivery of high quality AV content e.g. mobile and internet trump TV + participatory, 2-way comms
  • Rationale remains: the market is unlikely to provide the full set of content and services that will maximise the benefit to society (i.e. for democratic, social, economic reasons the taxpayer should fund certain content)
Options for future public service delivery

Keeping options very open, emphasis on flexibility (fair given landscape still changing and they're planning well into the future)

The PSP's content

1.23 "The PSP has always been conceived of as a new media response to the challenges of digital media. It would meet public purposes using the tools, technology, insights and culture of digital media, both in production and distribution. As consumer behaviour changes rapidly and online content moves more into the mainstream, it becomes more important to consider afresh the style, form and substance of content which will inform, educate and entertain in the multimedia digital age."

  • Participative at its heart > users not viewers > driving community activity and mediation
  • Location and taste sensitive; same title, different content
The PSP's operating model
  • £50 - 100m as a starting point!
  • Commissioner rather than producer
  • Radical rights-model (sharing)
  • Non-commercial
  • Distribution partners, rather than ownership of platforms
  • Outside of London
  • Encouraging uptake of new-media tools
Next steps
  • No further, major publications til 2009/10
  • Responses requested on
    • The appropriate nature of intervention in the digital media age, and the balance between TV and non-TV forms of public service content distribution
    • The potential role of the PSP and its creative remit
    • The operating model – in particular, the approach to rights management
    • The scale of funding required.
  • Plans for 20078
    • As noted in Ofcom’s Draft Annual Plan, published on 12 December 2006, we will during 2007/8 take forward our thinking on public service content and the PSP in the context of the wider work programme running up to the next PSB Review. We will develop the PSP concept further through:
    • A series of events focusing on the key themes regarding how the PSP would work in practice – the different aspects of its content, and its operating model. This would involve discussions with a wide range of players from across the digital media industries about the potential and practicality of the PSP
    • Exploration with government and other public bodies of the prospects for funding for PSP-type projects, and discussions with content providers regarding the types of prototype PSP content and services that funding could be used to support
    • Full consideration of the responses to this document – we would welcome thoughts and reactions to the issues raised in this document by 23 March 2007. We will review these responses with a view to publishing a summary later in 2007. At the same time, we will carry out further work within Ofcom on some of the key structural and operational aspects of the PSP.

2 The Changing landscape

Written by Anthony Lilley of Magic Lantern, introduces the changing digital media landscape

3 The need for a new approach

Develops Ofcom’s views on a possible new approach to public service content, and sets out the options for future public service delivery. The next two sections consider one of these options – the PSP – in more detail

4 The PSP’s content

Written by Andrew Chitty of Illumina Digital, sets out the areas of content that the PSP could focus on

5 The PSP’s operating model

Provides Ofcom’s thoughts on some of the important elements of the PSP’s operating model. These thoughts are informed by the work of the external Creative Forum

6 Next steps