PSB Review 2

Due in part to a lack of community interest but also a lack of resources we did not respond to this consultation.

Phase One: The Digital Opportunity

The Office of Communications (Ofcom) are consulting on how to maintain and strengthen public service broadcasting (PSB). The regulatory and funding model that supports the current PSB framework has had its day so they ask whether and how it should be re-invented for the digital age.

The purpose of the Phase One report is to set out the facts, to describe Ofcom’s research and to sketch out some possible options for discussion. The analysis concludes with four possible public service models for the future. They want to know your views on whether these models capture the range of what is potentially achievable. What do you think is the best approach? If you favour continued intervention, what is the best mechanism for funding it and how should that funding be supervised?

Here's the headlines from the Executive Summary:

  • Access to public service content has expanded dramatically, but the public service broadcasters continue to play a dominant role
  • Overall, the public service broadcasters are meeting public purposes, but gaps are appearing in some areas
  • The pace of change is likely to intensify, with significant implications for achieving public service purposes
  • Audiences value competition for the BBC in provision of public service content, which will require new sources of funding in a digital age
  • The existing model for public service broadcasting is not well equipped to respond to audiences’ evolving requirements
  • New approaches will be needed to meet the needs of the UK’s nations, regions and localities
  • The BBC, Channel 4 and S4C could play a role in enhancing provision for children
  • Phase 2 of this review will involve further work on potential long-term models and the short-term issues identified in this report

And here's the models:

  • Model 1 - Evolution: the current commercial public service broadcasters (PSBs) retain a designated public service role. Either their public service responsibilities are reduced in line with the declining value of their gifted spectrum, or additional support is provided to retain or expand those responsibilities which remain high public priorities but which can no longer be supported through the value of existing gifted spectrum;
  • Model 2 - BBC only: the commercial PSBs do not retain special designated roles and no additional public funding is provided for public service broadcasting beyond the BBC. The BBC becomes the sole UK-wide intervention in public service content, and may need to take on additional roles to meet needs not served by the market. Limited plurality is provided only to the extent possible through content supplied by fully commercial broadcasters;
  • Model 3 - BBC/C4 plus limited competitive funding: Channel 4 retains a designated public service role to provide plurality with the BBC but other commercial PSBs lose their public service obligations and benefits. Channel 4’s remit is extended across platforms and into new programming areas, supported by new funding. Any remaining public purposes not served by the BBC and Channel 4 – potentially for example non-BBC programming for the nations and regions – could be delivered through long-term but transferable funding agreements with other providers, awarded competitively through a funding agency; and
  • Model 4 - Broad competitive funding: the commercial PSBs do not retain special institutional roles. Instead additional funding is made available by government for public service content beyond the BBC. Long-term but transferable contracts for meeting specific public service purposes would be awarded competitively through a funding agency. Those contracts would be open to bids from a wide range of organisations, including the existing PSBs. The BBC would have a core role in areas where the market is unlikely to deliver but where a competitive process would be difficult to specify.

The consultation's questions are unfortunately opaque without an understanding of the research featured in the consultation document. Will put the questions up on our consultation tool in the hope that some in the community will tackle the document and help us with a response. It is as yet unclear what shape our response will take although we have two initial demands to make:

  • The BBC should produce non-DRMed and remixable content
  • The UK IPO should reform copyright to encourage transformative works.