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UK parliament mulls PSBs’ future

The UK’s House of Lords Communications Committee has launched an inquiry into whether the rise of VoD services spells the end for public service broadcasters (PSBs).

Tony Hall

The committee has called for evidence for its inquiry, which will investigate whether there is a future for PSBs in the context of the rising popularity of VoD services in the UK.

VoD streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime have emerged as powerful competitors to PSBs such as the BBC and ITV.

The committee has pointed out that the global distributors and producers have made available thousands of hours of content for subscriptions which start at £5.99 (US$7.87) per month, less than half the cost of a TV licence.

This has created mounting challenges for PSBs, with concerns that the popularity of VoD services has made PSBs redundant, the committee added.

Previously, the Lords’ committee has investigated matters such as whether or not commercial PSB Channel 4 should be privatised, and it concluded that it should remain state-owned.

The committee will now ask how serious the threat to public service broadcasting is, whether it is worth saving and what form it could take in future. The committee has asked for contributions on questions such as:

  • How can commercial public service broadcasters fund original UK productions at a time of declining advertising revenues?
  • Are the obligations currently placed on PSBs appropriate?
  • Should there be further regulation of on-demand services?
  • Does public service broadcasting do enough to reflect and serve the demographics of the UK?
  • Have PSBs responded adequately to market changes?

 

Chairman of the committee Lord Gilbert of Panteg said: “PSBs must fulfil a range of obligations, including on the volume and type of adverts they show, programming in specific genres, the way they commission content, the audiences they serve and the watershed.

“On-demand services do not have these obligations and it has been suggested that these big-budget productions are pricing PSBs out of the market by inflating production costs. The committee will investigate if the concept of public service broadcasting retains some value, what form it should take in future and how it could be financially viable.”

The committee has invited written evidence from all interested parties by April 26. The submission form and more information can be found here.

Last week BBC director general Tony Hall renewed his call for tighter regulation of streamers in the UK, while culture secretary Jeremy Wright said the government’s forthcoming white paper on ‘online harms’ would set out expectations for digital companies operating in the UK.

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Format Awards 2019
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