Thursday, July 2, 2015

Nice one, Sharon

The latest big Ofcom review of public service broadcasting, published today, officially ducks the future of the BBC and Charter Renewal, thus...

Deciding the role of the BBC through the forthcoming Charter Review process will be critical, because significant changes in the scope or nature of the output of the BBC could have a material impact on the delivery of the PSB outcomes set by Parliament. However, we have not, in the course of this review, conducted a detailed analysis of the BBC’s ability to maximise its commercial revenues, realise further efficiencies or refocus its activity to provide greater value for money. That is a matter for Charter Review.

Indeed, the whole 32-page document is cautious about any form of prediction. However, there's plenty of comfort for the BBC team locked down in the Charter Bunker.

Below, I've filleted bits of interest. Remember, PSB means BBC, Channel 4 Corporation (C4C), the Channel 3 licensees – ITV, STV and UTV – and Channel 5. BBC Alba and S4C provide Gaelic and Welsh-language channels. All BBC services are PSB; only the main channels of the others are PSB
  • The BBC remains the cornerstone of the PSB system and is the key driver of investment across the system. Our most recent figures for total spend (including sport), show that the public service broadcasters spent £2.5bn in 2014 on new UK original content, with the BBC accounting for just over half of this (£1.27bn). ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 contributed the rest (£1.25bn). 
  • There is minimal provision in some genres: following the removal of specific quotas in 2003, PSB provision in arts and classical music, religion and ethics, and formal education has significantly reduced. In children’s content, there is very limited provision of non-animation programming beyond the BBC 
  • Public service broadcasters will need freedom to continue to innovate, as audiences increasingly want content that is delivered over multiple devices and specifically designed for the internet environment. 
  • PSB broadcasters have shifted investment towards cheaper genres over the review period (e.g. replacing drama with relatively cheaper entertainment programmes) and they have also reduced spend outside evening peak time. It is estimated that these shifts resulted in reduced PSB spend on new UK programmes of around £101m, in cash terms, between 2007 and 2013. 
  • There was significant concern raised during our consultation about this consolidation in the indie sector: of the top seven UK producers, accounting for around £1bn of UK revenue, six are now owned by large foreign media companies.
  • We are seeing falling investment in drama and comedy: the PSB system continues to deliver high-profile, big-budget dramas, such as Sherlock, Doctor Who and Downton Abbey. These are successful both in the UK and abroad, with audience appreciation rising. However, they mask substantial falls in first-run UK originations spend in real terms by the PSBs (down 44% since 200824); in the corresponding hours of new UK output (down 41% from 627 to 371 hours in 2014) and in viewing figures for UK drama on the main five channels (down by 27%25). ITV, in particular, has taken a big step back from the genre, reducing its hours of output by 65%, while the volume of multichannel output in drama remains low, despite gaining a high profile. 
  • Among all UK adults, 69% of viewing is to live TV. However, the share of viewing to live TV among 16-24s drops to 50%, and to 61% for 25-34s. 
  • The licence fee model, if amended to apply to non-linear consumption, could preserve the BBC’s position at the centre of the PSB system.
  • Under more radical scenarios, where nearer 50% of viewing shifts to online/IP platforms, we could see total distribution costs rise by around £100m by 2024. 
  • Given its scale and security of funding, the BBC is likely to be the most proactive in driving changes in audience behaviour through the services that if offers and the most robust in the face of unforeseen shocks, depending on the level, nature and terms of the next Charter Review
  • Our review has highlighted a number of areas in which we recognise that increased delivery would be desirable, including news, with the need to improve reach and impact for young people, drama (particularly on ITV), programming for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and the English regions, and children’s programming beyond the BBC.

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