Government urged to protect Traditional TV
February 13, 2024
By Colin Mann
5.5 million households in the UK will struggle to watch their favourite TV shows unless Traditional TV is protected to 2040 and beyond, campaigners are warning. The call comes as consultancy firm EY publishes new analysis on the feasibility of broadband networks serving as the only mechanism for universal TV services.
Despite the Government’s 99 per cent broadband coverage goal for 2030, the report predicts that there will still be a significant gap in broadband uptake ten years later in 2040. The report demonstrates that unless action is taken to protect traditional free-to-air broadcast services there is a potential to exclude those who are least likely to take up a high speed broadband subscription from TV programming including live sports, news, and entertainment. This includes vulnerable groups such as the elderly, disabled individuals, low-income households, and rural communities.
The report’s statistical analysis identified the key barriers to broadband take-up and how this will impact access to universal TV services in 2040. Notably:
- Over 5.5 million UK premises (18 per cent) are predicted to be without a high-speed broadband subscription by 2040, despite the government’s commitment to 99 per cent broadband coverage by 2030.
- The regions with the highest proportion of premises without high-speed broadband in 2040 are predicted to be Northern Ireland (24 per cent), North East England (21 per cent), Yorkshire & the Humber (20 per cent), North West England (19 per cent), Scotland (19 per cent) and Wales (19 per cent).
- The uptake of high-speed broadband is only set to increase by 10 per cent between 2022 and 2040, with more than just connectivity being a barrier to individuals adopting high-speed broadband.
- Those forecast to be without high-speed broadband will disproportionally be vulnerable groups in society, such as the elderly, disabled and low-income households.
- Ofcom, cited in the House of Lords Report on Digital Exclusion (2023), says 31 per cent of people aged 65+ do not currently use the Internet at home.
- Ofcom reported that around one-in-ten households (2.4 million UK households) find it difficult to afford their broadband service (Ofcom Communications Affordability Tracker, October 2023).
The Government’s current policy only guarantees broadcast TV services are protected until the early 2030s. The communications regulator Ofcom is currently undertaking a review as to whether this cut-off date should be extended. The Broadcast 2040+ campaign is therefore calling on the Government to commit publicly to safeguarding traditional TV and radio services to 2040 and beyond.
“The Broadcast 2040+ campaign’s mission to safeguard the future of broadcast TV and radio is critical to helping bridge the digital divide that the UK faces,” asserts Elizabeth Anderson, CEO of the Digital Poverty Alliance and part of the Broadcast 2040+ coalition. “As today’s report makes clear, unless we protect these platforms, we risk putting 5.5 million households at greater risk of digital exclusion and the harms that this will cause. The government must take urgent and decisive action to ensure vulnerable people across the nation are protected and no one is left behind.”
“We welcome today’s report and continue to champion the Broadcast 2040+ Campaign’s work to safeguard the future of Broadcast TV and radio,” adds Kerry, Booth, chief executive of the Rural Services Network.
“In a world moving to ‘digital by default’ we need to ensure that we are not leaving anyone behind. As it stands, there is a risk that our rural residents with poor access to gigabit broadband connection, and poor mobile telephone connectivity, will be excluded from being able to watch television in their own homes. We must ensure that Government policy suits the needs of rural areas and doesn’t leave rural residents at a disadvantage.”
“It is crucial that all citizens in the UK are able to enjoy high quality, informative and diverse programming, available on a universal basis,” states Colin Browne from the Voice of Listener & Viewer. “This report indicates very clearly that terrestrial TV and radio will continue to have an essential role for many in our country for a very long time.”
“We are concerned about the issues highlighted in the EY report,” comments Citizens Advice Cornwall Communications Officer, Wailim Wong. “The disparities between coverage and actual usage underscore a pressing issue that directly impacts the most vulnerable members of our community, including the elderly, disabled and those in rural areas who make-up a large proportion of people who come to see us for help.”
“The digital divide poses significant challenges, and the projected figures for the South West are disheartening. This is not just an issue of internet access; it’s about ensuring inclusivity and equal opportunities for all, and ensuring no one is unplugged from society.”
“It’s more clear than ever that traditional broadcast TV and radio will continue to play a vital role in society for many years to come, and extension of protection for these services beyond 2034 is required.”
“This report is worrying, and the fact that the North East is predicted to have the lowest take up of broadband in 2040 of all the English regions is even more concerning,” says Dr Michelle Cooper MBE. Chief Executive of County Durham Community Foundation. “We just can’t afford to be left behind. More needs to be done to bridge the digital divide and this is not just an issue of internet access; it’s about ensuring inclusivity, equal opportunities for all, and ensuring no one is unplugged from education and society. It’s clearer than ever that traditional broadcast TV and radio will continue to play a vital role in this for many years to come, and extension of protection for these services beyond 2034 is required.”
“The EY study indicates that, despite widespread broadband coverage, universal access for all viewers should not be taken for granted,” notes David Coulson, Partner, Economic Advisory at EY. “It is crucial those least likely to have high speed broadband in 2040 continue to have access to television, particularly vulnerable groups such as the elderly, disabled individuals, low-income households, and rural communities.”