Ofcom is reviewing the current relationship between the public service broadcasters (PSBs) and production sector. It says that due to unprecedented changes to technology, financing and viewer behaviour, it is examining how to strengthen and maintain public service broadcasting (PSB) for the future. 

As part of its research, Ofcom has found that PSB content is still highly valued by audiences, and public service broadcasters play a vital role in underpinning the UK’s creative economy. However, funding is under pressure and global streaming services are growing in popularity, so Ofcom is looking at overhauling broadcasting laws and regulations.

Ofcom’s review identifies what a new PSB framework could look like, along with options for a new model for stable funding. It also sets out how new providers could help deliver public service media in future. The current regulatory rules and guidance were designed when the sector and the way audiences consumed content were very different. Ofcom’s goal is to understand the impact of regulation as it adapts to evolving market conditions. Specifically, it seeks evidence on whether any rule changes might be needed to further benefit viewers, to better support the financial sustainability of producers and commissioners, and to secure the diversity and attractiveness of the sector.  It also wants to know if changes to audience consumption patterns and wider market developments mean that it would be appropriate to update its guidance on the commissioning of independent productions, which could be done without the need for new legislation. It is particularly interested in views on how the guidance could be developed to offer flexibility and benefits and allow for timely negotiations to reflect the changing market conditions.

Ofcom is also interested in views about potential changes to either the level of the independent production quota or the definitions of an independent producer and qualifying programming.  This would require legislative reform.

Ofcom is seeking views on the impact of regulation in three key areas:

  • Delivering for UK audiences – whether, as audiences consumption patterns change, current regulation is effective and flexible in ensuring that as many different audiences as possible continue to have access to a wide range of diverse, high-quality programming.
  • Supporting the financial sustainability of producers, PSBs and other commissioners – whether, in light of developments in technology and the wider content market, current regulation creates any barriers that affect the ability of producers to develop successful businesses or PSBs to maintain relationships with UK audiences or are likely to do so in future.
  • Securing the dynamism and attractiveness of the UK production sector – whether the current regulatory framework will continue to play a positive role in ensuring the UK production industry attracts investment and is well placed to take advantage of opportunities for further growth.

The consultation ends on 16 March 2021.