U.K. leads in TV outlay

Critical stats for pubcaster preparing to negotiate funding

LONDON — Blighty invests more in quality programming per capita than any other country including the U.S., claims a report published Tuesday.

Report, by Mark Oliver of Oliver and Ohlbaum Associates and commissioned by the BBC, concludes that the U.K. spends $75 per head on programming compared with $65 in the U.S., $52 in Germany, $43 in France and $26 in Australia.

Report comes at a critical time for the pubcaster, which is preparing to negotiate future funding as its charter comes up for renewal in 2006.

The report stresses the cultural importance of having a well-funded pubcaster and warns that investment in domestic TV production could drop by almost a $1 for every $1.60 cut in the Beeb’s license fee, hitting high-cost drama, docus and scripted comedy.

It also suggests that if a portion of the BBC’s funding is divided among the other terrestrial public service broadcasters, ITV, Channel 4 and Five, overall investment in U.K. content production would fall off. Blighty’s broadcasters spend $4.8 billion in program production, with the BBC stumping up 40% while Channel 4 and Five account for $2 billion (43%).

“Redirecting existing or new public funds to commercial broadcasters to subsidize high-cost genres could result in these funds ending up in shareholders’ pockets or new ventures, which do not rely on quality, homegrown programs, effectively crowding out new commercial investment,” the report concludes.

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