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ITV urges ‘radical, urgent’ PSB changes

Commerical UK broadcaster ITV’s Love Island

UK commercial broadcaster ITV has called for “radical and urgent” changes to public service broadcasting (PSB) in the UK.

In its submission to TV regulator Ofcom’s Small Screen: Big Debate consultation, ITV warned the current PSB legislation is not fit for purpose and needs updating to reflect the online era.

As a result, the broadcaster has outlined five areas where it says that the government and Ofcom need to act to future-proof public service media.

One is the establishment of a new ‘PSM [public service media] operator’ regime overseen by Ofcom to replace the current system which is based on the 2003 Communications Act.

ITV also wants a new settlement between PSB providers and platforms that distribute broadcast, streamed or on-demand content from them, to ensure prominence, inclusion and fair value.

The broadcaster said today the prominence it enjoys in EPGs, along with the BBC and Channel 4, “isn’t enough on its own if global platforms can use their financial muscle to squeeze the value out of PSM investments.” It pointed out that standard online platform terms often require content providers to agree a 30% ad revenue share.

It is also calling for a more agile and flexible regulatory regime to reflect the rapid changes in technology, markets and viewer behaviour.

The announcement comes as ITV is due to begin the process of renewing its PSB licence at the end of this year or early next year, ahead of its expiration at the end of 2024.

In a statement, ITV said: “The current commercial PSB licences expire at the end of 2024, which superficially feels a comfortable number of years away. In fact, the statutory process for renewing those licences will begin well before that, likely in late 2021 or early 2022. The statutory timetable requires Ofcom to advise the secretary of state by June 2022 (30 months before licence expiry) on the capacity of the commercial PSMs to contribute to the fulfilment of the purposes of public service television broadcasting at a cost that is commercially sustainable.

“Before this statutory process can sensibly get under way the public service medias and Ofcom will need some certainty as to what the statutory regime is going to be and hence the viability of the licences for the long term. The reform of the regime for prominence, inclusion and fair value is a key component of that future viability for the board of ITV.”

ITV added that Ofcom and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport need to work “hand in glove” over the coming months to develop proposals for a new PSM regime.

“Whilst it may not be practical for the legislation enshrining the new system to pass all its parliamentary stages before Ofcom has to report to the secretary of state, it is critical there is a clear statement by government of its settled intentions this year – most obviously via a detailed white paper, leading to legislation on the future of public service media in 2022 at the latest,” it said.

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