Government publishes response to the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee report: “Public service broadcasting: as vital as ever”

The Government says that it shares the Committee’s view about the importance of public service broadcasting (PSB) and its continued relevance in the age of video on demand.

Further, the Government is clear that PSB provides significant cultural, economic and democratic value to the UK. Evidence from Ofcom also shows that PSB programming remains popular and valued by UK audiences.

However, the Government says, in a changing media landscape public service broadcasters will need to adapt if they are to sustain the public value that they provide; and legislation and regulation will need to evolve to ensure a regulatory framework that is fit for purpose. The Communication Committee’s report raises a number of areas where this may be the case.

The Government says that it wants to ensure the continued health of a modern PSB system: one that is capable of bringing the nation together through shared experiences; that represents and serves audiences in all parts of the UK; and that remains at the heart of our world-class broadcasting sector, which also includes a thriving and diverse ecology of non-PSB broadcasters and services.

Key points from the Government’s response to the Committee’s specific recommendations include:

  • alongside public service broadcasters and as part of this mixed ecology, the Government says that commercial broadcasters are also central to the television sector. The Government welcomes the valuable contribution that commercial broadcasters also make to the cultural, economic and democratic benefits provided by the sector as a whole;
  • the Government expects public service broadcasters to deliver high-quality, distinctive content for all audiences and licence fee payers across the UK. In particular, the Government recognises the need for public service broadcasters to appeal to younger viewers to ensure they remain relevant, in light of audience trends. Public service broadcasters need to continue to innovate in this area;
  • the Government agrees that public service broadcasters should do more to involve people from diverse backgrounds in their commissioning processes and behind the camera. UK television should reflect modern Britain, both on and off screen;
  • the Government agrees that part of the remit of public service broadcasting is to foster shared national experiences, and that this delivers wider social benefits for the whole country. The Government is therefore supportive of the listed events regime and believes that the current regime, and the list itself, strikes an appropriate balance between retaining free-to-air sporting events for the public while allowing rights holders to negotiate agreements in the best interests of their sport. As such, the Government does not plan to review the list;
  • the Government agrees that a levy on subscriptions to video on demand services is not appropriate at this time and has no plans to introduce one. However, the Government will keep the situation under review; and
  • in response to the Committee’s recommendation that there should be an independent and transparent process for setting the licence fee and that the Government should establish an independent body called the BBC Funding Commission, the Government said that the licence fee funding model was considered as part of Charter Review 2015-16, during which it committed to maintain the licence fee funding model for the BBC for the duration of the current Charter period, lasting until the end of 2027. The Government has no plans to introduce a Licence Fee Commission, and it believes it remains appropriate to determine the level of the licence fee in discussions with the BBC as part of the licence fee settlement process. However, in the White Paper “A BBC for the future: a broadcaster of distinction”, the Government recognised the importance of greater transparency in future settlements. The next licence fee settlement process will cover the period from 2022-27. The Government will set out more detail on the process to be followed in due course.

To access the response in full, click here.