Television viewers must be able to tune in to public sector broadcasters – such as the BBC, STV and ITV – more easily in the digital age, says Ofcom
The media regulator has announced a range of measures to ensure that public service broadcasters (PSBs) continue to deliver high-quality content for UK viewers and listeners. PSB has been a powerful cultural force for more than 80 years, and remains central to innovation and investment in broadcasting, helping to underpin the UK’s wider creative economy. But, says Ofcom, public service broadcasting is now at a crucial juncture, as broadcasters face unprecedented competition from global on-demand and internet services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube.
So Ofcom is setting out a package of measures, including recommendations to the UK Government, to support PSB now and in the years ahead.
Today Ofcom wants:
- Updating rules that ensure traditional PSB TV channels are prominent and easy to find within programme guides;
- Making recommendations to Government for new legislation to help ensure PSB programmes and players are also clearly visible on internet-connected devices, such as smart TVs, set-top boxes and streaming sticks;
- Endorsing a range of commitments by ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 to increase their focus on high-quality children’s programmes; and
- Launching Small Screen: Big Debate- a national forum to discuss the future of public service broadcasting on TV and online. This will call for Parliament, regulators, broadcasters and viewers to be involved in developing a new framework for public service media in future.
- Kevin Bakhurst, Ofcom’s Group Director for Content and Media Policy, said: “Our traditional broadcasters are among the finest in the world. But they’re facing unprecedented challenges from competition and new technology. So we are ensuring their channels remain easy to find on TV guides, and convening a national debate on the future of public service media – including how we safeguard its benefits for future generations.”
To ensure PSB programmes remains visible the rules need to updated to ensure traditional PSB TV channels are prominent and easy to find within on-screen programme guides.
This will safeguard the positions of BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, STV, Channel 4, S4C and Channel 5. We are also setting minimum levels of prominence for other BBC channels – such as CBeebies and BBC News – and local TV services.
Currently, Ofcom cannot extend ‘prominence’ rules to television delivered via the internet. Parliament would need to introduce new legislation to extend regulation to online platforms and services.
“We are also today recommending to Government that new rules are established to ensure that PSB content is clearly visible on major viewing platforms, such as smart TVs, set-top boxes and streaming sticks.
In order to qualify under our recommended new prominence rules, broadcasters’ on-demand services would need to deliver an appropriate range of high-quality PSB content. This might include requirements around particular genres, such as children’s, current affairs and factual content, and programmes made specifically for UK viewers.