Insights House of Lords Select Committee on Communications and Digital publishes report: “Public service broadcasting: as vital as ever”


According to the Committee’s summary, the report underscores that public service broadcasting “remains essential to the UK media and losing it would leave UK society and democracy worse off”. According to the Committee, PSBs face unprecedented competition from Netflix, Amazon Prime and other subscription video on demand services (SVODs) whose production budgets often dwarf those of PSBs.

By contrast with SVODs, the report highlights that PSBs are “failing to appeal to certain groups”, including 16–34-year-olds. Younger generations are not growing up with PSBs as previous generations did, which “risks undermining support for the licence fee”. The Committee also heard “concerning evidence” that PSBs are “failing to appeal to BAME viewers and that they were not as successful as SVODs in championing BAME representation behind the camera and in the creative process, especially at the BBC”.

In the report, the Committee raises further concerns about the integrity of the licence fee as the guarantor of the BBC’s financial independence. The report finds that it has been “undermined by a succession of settlements that were carried out behind closed doors”. In the Committee’s view: “The BBC should not have been offered, or accepted, responsibility for over-75s’ licences” and that a “new, independent and transparent process for setting the licence fee is necessary”. The report recommends the establishment of a new body called the BBC Funding Commission to help set the licence fee.

The Committee’s recommendations include:

  • listed sports events: a modest increase in the number of listed sports events, which must be shown free to air. This could include The Ashes and The Open Golf Championship;
  • TV production: the UK production sector is a national success story, but “it is at risk of reaching full capacity and overheating”. The Committee recommends changes to High-End TV tax relief and the Apprenticeship Levy, as well as a review of the Terms of Trade between PSBs and independent producers to determine whether they should still apply to larger companies;
  • regulation and funding: The Government should support PSBs in the new technological environment, and “think very carefully” before imposing any further regulatory or financial burdens on them. The Committee “does not support a levy on SVODs at this time”.

To read the Committee’s summary in full and for a link to the full report, click here.