HomeInsightsOfcom announces review of regional TV production and programming guidance

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Ofcom has set out proposals that seek to ensure that television programmes made outside of London deliver more tangible creative and economic benefits to the UK’s nations and regions.

Ofcom says that production outside of London plays a crucial role in the television sector, by stimulating investment and job opportunities throughout the UK. It also helps contribute to the diversity of editorial perspectives in a wide variety of programmes made for the benefit of UK viewers.

Ofcom explains that to help support and strengthen the creative economies in the nations and regions, it requires the BBC, Channel 3 services, Channel 4 and Channel 5 to meet expenditure and programme hours quotas for productions made outside the M25, for UK-wide broadcast. BBC One and Two and Channel 3 services must also meet quotas to provide regional programmes that are of particular interest to people living in the area where the service is broadcast. Ofcom publishes guidance to assist the broadcasters in meeting these obligations.

However, Ofcom says that it recognises industry concerns that the guidance may not always have been consistently applied in practice. To address this, it is proposing a series of changes to the guidance including:

  • clarifying how regional production criteria should be satisfied in practice, including a new requirement that a production company’s “substantive business and production base” must be operational prior to the point a programme is commissioned;
  • excluding self-promotional content from counting towards regional production quotas;
  • adding explanatory examples of how the guidance should be applied; and
  • changing the process for how productions are allocated to different parts of the UK, to better reflect where they are actually made.

Ofcom says that it also plans to improve the monitoring regime by requiring public service broadcasters to provide more data to evidence how productions meet the criteria, and increase the amount of information it publishes to provide greater transparency. It intends to carry out spot checks to monitor how the guidance is being practically applied, and will report publicly on its findings. Finally, it also proposes to carry out a benchmarking study among producers and the PSBs to assess the mix of geographic talent and resources employed on regional productions and in their commissioning.

Ofcom is seeking views on its proposals by 27 February 2019. To access the proposals in full, click here.