Insights Government publishes letter to Ofcom confirming decision to renew Channel 3 and Channel 5 broadcasting licences


In a letter to Ofcom in response to Ofcom’s report under s 229 of the Communications Act 2003, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Lucy Frazer, confirmed that she does not intend to prevent the renewal of the Channel 3 (C3) and Channel 5 (C5) (ITV, STV and Channel 5) licences. She also confirmed that she does not intend to use her order-making powers under the 2003 Act to amend their public service remit and/or other statutory requirements attached to the C3 and C5 licences.

Ms Frazer noted that much of the success of the UK’s “vibrant and successful public service broadcasting (PSB) system” is thanks to ITV, STV and Channel 5 who “continue to fulfil their core purposes as PSBs”. She said she believed that her decision to permit the renewal of these licences “will enable that success to continue and for our PSB system to continue to thrive into the future”.

Ms Frazer noted the finding in Ofcom’s report that the current C3 and C5 licence holders have not only met, but in some cases exceeded, their PSB obligations over the current licence period. She said that the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing situation in Ukraine had “only served to demonstrate the vital role of PSB in providing an important source of accurate and trusted news which helps audiences understand the world around them”. She said that she expected the current level of public service requirements to be maintained over the next licence period, and the core principles of PSB preserved during the renewal process.

Further, Ms Frazer said, renewals of the C3 and C5 licences complement the Government’s decision to facilitate the renewal of the UK’s five national digital terrestrial television (DTT) multiplex licences until 2034. “Together, these decisions will provide stability and certainty to PSBs about the future of their services, and the benefits they receive as a PSB including prominence on electronic programme guides and reserved capacity on DTT”, she said.

However, Ms Frazer also said that she appreciated the concerns raised by the current licence holders and acknowledged the future challenges all PSBs are facing due to changes in viewing habits and advances in technology. She acknowledged that, as identified in Ofcom’s report, the benefits attached to DTT are likely to fall over the next ten years as viewing increasingly shifts away from linear to on-demand television.

The letter refers to the Government’s Broadcasting White Paper published in April 2022, in which the Government set out its proposals for supporting the future of PSB through a package of legislative measures to update both the existing regulations for PSBs to make them fit for the digital age and the benefits that accrue to PSBs. Ms Frazer also pointed out the Government’s intention to legislate for a “new online prominence framework so that public service content is made available, and given prominence, across major online TV platforms”. In Ms Frazer’s view, these reforms will “not only help maintain the value of the PSB compact but also strengthen and secure the long-term sustainability of PSB”.

Finally, Ms Frazer said she agreed with the conclusion in Ofcom’s report that the reforms in the proposed Media Bill will “help further strengthen the sustainability of these licences over the next ten years”. In recognition of this, Ms Frazer said that she had published the Bill in draft to underline her commitment to introduce the Bill when parliamentary time allows. Ms Frazer said that she had done this to “give the current licence holders greater business certainty and additional clarity around the potential new obligations and benefits to be brought forward in the next licence period to assist with upcoming negotiations on the new licences”. To read the letter in full, click here.