Jeremy Wright, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has confirmed that the UK government will support Public Service Broadcasters to ensure they continue to thrive, and stay prominent, as part of a healthy, sustainable and dynamic media landscape.
Addressing the Royal Television Society London Conference, Wright noted that as national institutions it was the job of PSBs to invite people in. “By doing so, you will not only create and solidify that trust: you will secure it for generations to come,” he suggested, adding that was asking them to go further in their efforts. “By doing more to build trust in the accuracy of news through high quality journalism and reporting; By doing more to provide for diverse, young and UK-wide audiences, and exploring innovative ways to reach them; And by providing opportunities for under-represented groups both on and off screen. In exchange, the government will support PSBs to ensure they continue to thrive, and stay prominent, as part of a healthy, sustainable and dynamic media landscape,” he said.
Wright’s address covered what the TV industry – and public service broadcasters in particular – could do to maintain trust, and help address some of the most pressing issues in society and democracy.
“Our PSBs have so many unique advantages that they need to exploit to the full. But as national institutions in a multichannel world, they must also work to secure the trust of the whole UK. One example is making younger viewers just as engaged in PSB programming as their parents were. Younger viewers are more open to new technology and more receptive to new brands than any generation before them. This change in consumption habits is showing no sign of slowing down. So you must reach them where they want to be reached. And they must find you where they expect you to be found,” he suggested.
“I want to see the PSBs being nimble, working across platforms, innovating and collaborating. Internationally this has been a success: Britbox is showing the best of British to viewers in the US and Canada. PSBs should not be afraid of building on this success at home. To support this, we are launching a Contestable Fund pilot, of up to £60 million, to stimulate the provision and plurality of original UK content for young audiences, both on linear TV and on demand,” he advised, adding that this would help create new funding avenues for creators of original content and bring new voices to the market.
He confirmed that he would be looking closely at the results of Ofcom’s work on Prominence, and would work with the PSBs and the whole sector, to ensure the government is playing its part in supporting the future of public service broadcasting at the very heart of a vibrant media sector.