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Ex-BBC exec Holland urges UK to recognise ‘phenomenal creative values’ of PSBs

To lose the UK’s public service broadcasting (PSB) sector would be to “kill the goose that laid the golden egg,” according to Banijay UK executive chairman Patrick Holland.

Patrick Holland

The former BBC Two controller made the remarks today at the Outside the Box conference, organised by Everyone TV (formerly known as Digital UK), the parent company of UK free TV platforms Freeview and Freesat.

Holland said the work of UK public broadcaster the BBC, and that of commercial pubcasters ITV and Channel 4, is admired worldwide, adding that free-to-access programming must be safeguarded as a matter of vital importance in an industry embracing streamers.

He also claimed that global streamers copy UK pubcasters and “cherry pick” the talent they have spent time and money developing for UK television.

“Making a case for PSB is like making a case for oxygen – you only miss it when it’s gone,” said Holland, who oversees the management and strategic direction of Banijay UK’s portfolio of more than 20 scripted and unscripted labels.

“Banijay is a big international company and when I meet up with the people who do my job in different territories, the UK’s PSB model is the envy of the US and every single country around Europe.

“Streamers look at our model and see what is working, then cherry-pick creative talent such as Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who created Fleabag for BBC Three and then signed an overall deal with Amazon Prime.

“My biggest fear is that people don’t recognise the phenomenal creative values of PSB and the goose that laid the golden egg is killed.”

The Outside the Box conference featured speakers discussing the future of free-to-air TV in a rapidly evolving landscape.

The UK’s PSB sector has come under threat from multiple angles in recent years. The BBC’s licence fee is under continued scrutiny, while its director general Tim Davie stated in December that “a switch off of broadcast will and should happen,” as TV continues to shift towards an online-only model.

Meanwhile, the UK government only recently abandoned its plans to privatise Channel 4, while the rise of global AVoD and SVoD platforms has led many to predict the demise of traditional broadcasters.

Holland said PSBs should be backed and protected, as free public broadcasting is of huge cultural importance to the UK.

“We’ve got all this vibrancy happening in a regulated and extraordinarily structured system,” said Holland, who was also previously director of factual, arts and classical music at the BBC.

“If you take away the transformative power of Strictly Come Dancing – this incredible format that the whole nation is glued to – plus the audience diversity of MasterChef, you’re taking away core values that help make the UK so special, because they’re enshrined in law.”

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