U.K. Parliament Launches Inquiry on Public Service Broadcasting


The U.K.’s Communications Committee has launched a new inquiry to investigate whether there is a future for public service broadcasting in the context of the rising popularity of VOD services.

The inquiry will examine the impact from the emergence of VOD platforms that have made thousands of hours of content available for subscriptions that start at £5.99 per month—less than half the cost of a TV license. It will spotlight the mounting challenges this has created for public service broadcasters such as the BBC and ITV. The concerns are that the popularity of VOD services has made PSBs redundant.

The committee will ask how serious the threat to public service broadcasting is, whether it is worth saving and what form it could take in the future. The committee has asked for contributions on questions such as, How can commercial public service broadcasters fund original U.K. productions at a time of declining advertising revenues? Are the obligations currently placed on public service broadcasters appropriate? Should there be further regulation of on-demand services? Does public service broadcasting do enough to reflect and serve the demographics of the U.K.? Have public service broadcasters responded adequately to market changes?

Chairman of the Committee, Lord Gilbert of Panteg, said: “Public service broadcasters 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 public service broadcasters 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 intends to report in the fall.