A reg­u­la­tory over­haul is cru­cial for pub­lic ser­vice TV

Broad­cast­ers ur­gently need a mod­ern frame­work that recog­nises a seis­mic shift in the in­dus­try

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business Comment - Carolyn mccall

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.

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