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Ofcom calls for changes in PSB prominence rules in new digital age

Ofcom has said that Channel 4 should be allowed to deliver its Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) remit across all of its channels and called for changes in the way PSBs are afforded prominence, in its latest review of the UK's Public Service Broadcasters, the first since 2008.

In research conducted by the regulator, it found that the majority of viewers value PSB programmes, and audience satisfaction is high. Close to eight in ten viewers (79%) believe PSB is delivering on its purposes - such as trustworthy news and high quality programmes that reflect the UK - a notable increase from 69% in 2008.

Over half of all TV viewing is to the main PSB channels - BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, UTV, STV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 - rising to over 70% when all the channels broadcast by PSBs, such as time-shifted ‘+1’ channels, are taken into account.

With significant changes to Public Service Broadcasting since the last review in 2008, when digital switchover was only just starting, and new online services were still in their infancy or not yet in existance, Sharon White, Ofcom Chief Executive, noted:
“Public service broadcasting continues to deliver TV that is enjoyed and valued by millions of viewers across the UK.
“More people are watching online or on demand, and this presents challenges as well as opportunities for public service broadcasters. They must continue to find new ways of connecting with audiences, and the PSB system needs to evolve to ensure it remains effective in the digital age.”

Commenting on the march of on-demand services such as Netflix, and the affect of such services on younger viewers, Ofcom called for the Channel 4 framework to be reviewed, allowing Channel 4 to "deliver some of its PSB obligations across all its channels and services, not just focusing on its main channel, Channel 4."  Such a change would allow Channel 4's offshoot channels such as E4 and More4 to move up TV channel listings, leapfrogging other channels, when channel slots became free. On Freeview, commercial PSBs have already been able to leapfrog other channels thanks to associated channel rules.

It also said that the rules that guarantee prominence to public service broadcasters will need reforming to reflect online and on-demand offerings from the public service broadcasters.

It comes as the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has been consulting over prominence given to PSBs on Electronic Programme Guides and whether or not commercial PSBs, including ITV, should be allowed to extract a fee from pay TV platform operators to carry their services.

In its report, Ofcom made it clear it wasn't happy with that idea, saying: "These fees could bring additional funding for PSBs, but resolving any possible disagreements would probably require complicated and lengthy regulatory intervention. There is currently no guarantee that all fees would be spent on public service programmes."

ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 have long argued that they shouldn't be paying Sky for carriage, rather a system such as that in the USA, where platform operators pay individual TV channels a fee, should be in place.


  1. Well zero fees either way for PSBs would be best, sky/virgin don't pay the PSBs, the PSBs don't pay Sky/Virgin, the PSBs being must carry on all EPGs ect would be the best.
    Channel 4 being able to make all it's channels PSB status is a double edged sward for them, they will have to step up their game, especially if HD versions of PSBs become fully PSB and told they can't be behind paywalls!

    Sky and Virgin may as well create a separate little section for all PSB channels so you can find them quickly if there are to actually be so many now! If you include all channel 4's channels as well as the rest and in HD that will be over 30 channels with some kind of PSB status!


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