Advanced Television

Broadcasting white paper: Industry reaction

April 29, 2022

By Colin Mann

In addition to early comment on the publication of the government’s proposals from ITV and the chair of the DCMS committee, a range of broadcasters and bodies have issued their initial reactions.

“We’re pleased to see the government taking forward many of our recommendations, particularly around securing prominence for on-demand public service content,” commented broadcast regulator Ofcom. “We will continue to offer support with the development of future legislation.”

A BBC spokesperson said: “We welcome the steps to secure the ongoing success of public service broadcasters, including the increased and improved prominence of our services on TVs and platforms. We also look forward to engaging with the Government on both the forthcoming mid-term review and then the national debate on the next Charter. The White Paper recognises the BBC’s critical role in supporting the UK creative sector and we remain focused on delivering great value for all licence fee payers and representing the UK to audiences around the world.”

Channel 4 said that it would study the White Paper, and a considered response will follow. “However, Channel 4 remains committed to upholding and maximising its remit and public service purpose that has enabled it to shape Britain’s creative culture and make a significant contribution to the creative industries, while also investing across the UK’s Nations and Regions to create local and regional economic and social benefit,” the broadcaster affirmed.

Netflix commented: As we’ve previously said, we are supportive of measures to update the legal framework and bring our service in the UK under Ofcom’s jurisdiction. We look forward to reviewing the White Paper’s other proposals and continuing to engage with the government on their plans.”

According to Richard Lindsay-Davies, Chief Executive Officer, Digital TV Group (DTG), there is much to be welcomed in the document. “The commitment to enabling our broadcasters to thrive is great news for audiences. It is also critical in driving new economic growth in the media, and media-technology sectors,” he asserts.

“However, we must go further and think deeply about both the potential, and our limitations as architects of television’s future. The DTG believes that Government, Ofcom and Industry must continue to have an eye to the world beyond Internet delivered/streamed video. Together we must use this unique opportunity to shape television for the 2030s and create the pathway beyond our current collective imagination.”

“Any such plan must harness the best of British thinkers and data science. It must ensure ease of access for all –  access to services, access to content and access to the best quality viewer experience possible – consistently. It will be defined by great personalisation and addressability, and predicated on the all-important need to secure a level of trust, reliability, resilience, and low-latency live streaming that matches the broadcast experience of today.”

“And crucially, it must create real solutions to perpetual user annoyances such as complex set-up, sign-on and difficult content navigation – designing out issues created by fragmentation, and converging on a common aim, the best possible user experience. To deliver this, the DTG is working with industry on A Pathway to the Future of UK Television in a global context. A game-changer for the viewer and industry, and fundamental to delivering Up Next. “

We look forward to supporting our industry members and Ofcom in the implementation of the Government’s vision. And in doing so, sustaining Britain’s soft powers in media and technology on the world stage,” Lindsay-Davies concludes.

Dyfrig Davies, Chair of TAC, which represents independent TV production in Wales, said: “We welcome the Government’s commitment to protect the current terms of trade regime, which has led to the huge success of the UK independent TV production sector by allowing them to fully exploit their intellectual property. We also welcome the commitment to securing PSB prominence on a wider range of platforms, which will help all our PSB broadcasters including S4C. We note the decision to revise the PSB remits and will look forward to engaging on that in the coming months.”

“However, the removal of Channel 4’s publisher-broadcaster status is of concern, as it is a significant investor in independent productions and new talent around the UK. While the Government says Channel 4’s out-of-London commitments will remain in place, it’s not clear how they will be delivered if it is making up to 75 per cent of its content in-house, which will inevitably be at a relatively small number of production centres.”

“In 2019 Channel 4 contributed £20 million to GVA in Wales and supported 200 jobs. Channel 4’s initial investment in Welsh production companies in North and South Wales has grown and developed creative businesses. We will therefore be seeking to discuss the detail of these proposals with government, ahead of any legislation,” he confirmed.

Chloe Straw, Managing Director, AudioUK, the trade association for independent audio production companies in the UK, said: “We are pleased to see the recognition of the UK’s fast-growing audio production sector in these documents. We welcome the commitment to looking at statutory protections for audio producers’ IP in the form of regulation terms of trade with the BBC. If implemented this will make terms of trade negotiations easier to conduct and would ensure the protection of producers’ rights in a rapidly-expanding expanding market. In the future it may also be worth exploring having the same regime with other PSBs if and when they commission more podcast content, for example to pilot new shows or complement their TV brands.

“We also welcome the Government’s statement to look at the case for continued contestable funding in the form of continued finance for the Audio Content Fund. The Open Letter on the ACF’s future, which had 314 signatures and was coordinated by AudioUK and Radiocentre, is with DCMS for its consideration. We now need the planned evaluation of the ACF pilot scheme to take place as soon as possible.”

“On radio and audio skills and training, we are pleased to be part of the steering group that will explore this and we will be keen to explore how our Audiotrain can be expanded to ensure we have the skills base to support our growing industry.”

“We are less pleased to see the statement that the Government is not formally considering an Audio Production Tax Relief, to attract further investment into the UK. However we will continue to discuss the case for an APTR with officials, which we have been doing since producing our report last year, in which independently-produced analysis indicated that there would be a net benefit to the Treasury,” she concluded.

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