Ofcom have released their long-awaited guidance on the future of public service media (PSM), in which they urge the government to update the regulatory landscape and caution broadcasters to “accelerate” their digital strategies.
In the report, which canvassed the opinions of audiences, broadcasters, streamers, analysts and academics, Ofcom warned that U.K. broadcasting is “facing its greatest challenge” with the proliferation of on-demand viewing and streaming platforms. Viewers, they pointed out, are “no longer bound by television schedules.”
Among the changes suggested were modernizing the PSM’s objectives, requiring greater co-operation between PSM providers and TV platforms and updating production and content rules for PSM providers.
Most significantly, Ofcom reported: “Legislative change to the existing framework alone is not likely to be enough to preserve the vital benefits of public service media; further radical approaches are required.”
Among those are compelling PSM providers to forge “more ambitious strategic partnerships” with other companies, particularly distributors; to compete with streaming giants, creating economic incentives to “broaden PSM provision,” such as contestable funding or tax relief; and encouraging other companies to produce PSM content.
The latter, Ofcom suggests, could mean either “harnessing” U.K. content offered by commercial providers such as Sky or “encouraging” new PSM providers such as social media platforms. The aim, they say, would be to “target audiences who don’t connect with broadcasters on traditional TV platforms.
“Our creative sector is the envy of the world, but public service media is facing a triple threat — from large global players, viewers turning towards online services, and increasing funding pressures,” said Dame Melanie Dawes, Ofcom’s chief executive. “If we’re to preserve public service media and its outstanding content for future generations, change needs to happen — and fast.”
“That’s why we’re recommending the biggest shake-up to public service broadcasting in 20 years. Our plan of action sets out how the industry, government and Ofcom can together build a stronger system of public service media that can thrive in the digital age.”