Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sense & Sensibility

More on the UK regulator, OFCOM, where public pressure is resulting in a further outbreak of common sense.

Thanks to my colleague at Telesgop who provided the following details of the current OFCOM thinking:

It is expected that there will be £150 - £250m less to spend on TV programmes making in the UK in the near future, this includes a significant deficit at Big Brother touters, Channel 4.

ITV seems to be getting away with abdicating their regional responsibilities under their licence terms and are being allowed to cut outputs.

In future public service broadcasting will be delivered through a combination of institutions and competitions (take a deep breath at this point).

Thankfully, the option to leave the BBC as the only funded PSB in the UK has now been discounted after public pressure. The three remaining options are:

1. EVOLUTION: Retain BBC as a cornerstone. ITV remains – but with more funding. Others to develop speciality eg 5 – children’s programmess; Channel4 – innovative programmes

2. BBC/Ch4/S4C: enhanced role for Ch4; possible competitive tenders for other providers of specific needs.

3. BROAD COMPETITIVE FUNDING: BBC retains position. Others compete to deliver different areas of PSB. Others – outside of traditional broadcasters would be allowed to tender.

My major concern about all of the above is that it exacerbates the BBC situation, where a disproportionate amount of public money is spent on administrating programme making and in funding projects which could exist within the public sector.

The real winner to date is ITV, which has considerably cut its regional liabilities (perhaps opening up the opportunity for local newspapers to launch local TV services on their websites or even on broadcast channels) and is now obliged to make only 35% of its programmes outside of London. Effectively, Michael Grade's hardball tactics have worked brilliantly and ITV is now free to consolidate as a London based national broadcaster producing much of its output in house.


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