A regulatory overhaul is crucial for public service TV
Broadcasters urgently need a modern framework that recognises a seismic shift in the industry
UK public service broadcasters have stepped up to serve everyone during the most unsettling crisis most of us have ever experienced. They have provided free, reliable and universally available news, entertainment, information and companionship. They have provided an important counterweight against a welter of misinformation and fake news.
ITV is proud to have continued to inform and entertain throughout this period across our six television channels. We have screened 10 hours of live broadcast every weekday, as well as increased free-to-view content on ITV Hub.
Most programming of this sort is made by the public service broadcasters – the BBC, ITV, channels 4 and 5 and the national broadcasters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is under serious threat.
The regulatory framework for the PSBs was set out in 2003 – before Facebook, YouTube and Netflix were launched. There was no streaming. This needs to be updated for the new digital world urgently.
The Competition and Markets Authority has just highlighted the extraordinary market power of Facebook and Google and the damage that has done to newspapers in this country. It would be a terrible mistake to stand back and risk that happening to British television too.
Some might think the notion of public service broadcasting is an analogue relic in a digital age.
But the job of making programmes with a public purpose, available to everyone, is as essential now and for the future as it has been in the past.
The £2.6bn annual programme spend by PSBs allows real, meaningful investment in talent and production across the whole country, not just in London and the South East.
ITV creates unique content that reflects the UK in all its geographic and social diversity. We take our social purpose very seriously, using the scale of our audience to create positive change in areas such as mental and physical health.
And we produce those unique unifying national moments in sometimes fractured and fractious times. Streaming services don’t bring the nation together in that way. ITV delivers 95pc of all programmes on commercial television that attracts audiences of over 5m.
All this is achieved by harnessing ITV’s public reach to a clear purpose. We create distinctively British shows that reflect and shape the world we live in and enhance our country’s soft power.
But for future generations of viewers to continue to enjoy these benefits, the way the broadcasting sector is currently regulated needs to be brought up to date.
Fundamentally we need the right for the products and services of public service broadcasters to be included on television platforms in the digital, online, on-demand era.
Second, we must ensure public service programming maintains its prominence on all significant devices used to access television. The danger otherwise is that UK audiences will be pushed towards content determined by mega money deals between a small number of global platforms and content providers and the global technology giants.
Third, we must ensure that PSBs receive fair value from global television platforms for their investment in content.
And finally, we need an updated compact for PSBs which ensures that the benefits continue to match the cost of delivering our public service obligations. Perhaps the greatest
‘We produce those unique unifying national moments. Streaming services don’t bring the nation together’
benefit of public service broadcasting is the contribution it makes to the health of our democracy.
It provides a gold standard of trusted national and local journalism amid the anarchy of fake news.
We live in a world of change – and ITV has embraced that change. Our business today is unrecognisable from the ITV of 2003, or indeed 2013. We have a clear vision and investment plan to be a digitally led, 21st century media and entertainment company that is proudly British with a strong global footprint.
The future of our PSBs can encompass all the benefits British consumers enjoy today – economic, social and democratic.
But we can only do that with a fair and modern policy and regulatory framework that recognises the seismic shift in our industry.
Midsomer Murders is among ITV’s most popular shows