Ofcom has called on ministers to overhaul broadcasting rules to ensure the availability and prominence of public service content in a world where viewers are increasingly looking beyond the traditional EPG for things to watch.
The regulator held a wide-ranging review on the future of Public Service Media (PSM) in which it spoke to audiences, streaming platforms, broadcasters and academics to identify areas in need of reform.
These includes new legislation to ensure broadcasters deliver “a broad range of programming that reflects all parts of the UK” and giving PSM providers “flexibility to innovate and respond to technological and market changes,” while ensuring quotas for important programming, like news, remain.
Ofcom also suggests updating rules to ensure PSMs offer their on-demand services to popular TV platforms and device makers while obliging such platforms to include and give appropriate prominence to PSM content.
However, while the regulator has called for government action, it’s also urged broadcasters to take action where they can, including by forging deeper partnerships and improving their own digital offerings and plans.
Although not highlighted specifically by Ofcom, several of the UK’s biggest catch-up services offer little or no High Definition content, potentially making them less attractive when streamers such as Disney+ or Prime Video offer all new shows in HD and even, in some cases, in Ultra High Definition.
Broadcasters have belatedly looked to compete with the US-owned streamers, for example offering more boxset content on their catch-up services and through BritBox which was founded by the BBC and ITV and now also offers content from Channel 4 and Channel 5. However, the service is currently a minor player in the UK’s streaming market.
Dame Melanie Dawes, Chief Executive, Ofcom said: “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.
“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 twenty 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.”