Whilst the UK is home to a thriving broadcasting industry, there has been a decline in provision of certain key public service genres like children’s TV, arts and religious programming. Beyond television, concerns have also been raised about the BBC’s dominance of certain radio genres, such as comedy, documentaries, drama and religious programmes.
In order to address this, the government has committed to establishing a pilot for a new contestable fund. The fund, using competitive forces to ensure the highest quality and the best value for money, will help to stimulate the provision and plurality of public service content in targeted areas. Bids for the fund will be assessed against a strict value for money criteria.
Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said:
The UK’s broadcasting system is an international success story and at the heart of our cultural life. The government is determined to make sure it continues to go from strength to strength. To do so, it must provide a broad range of high-quality content for all UK audiences which reflects the diversity of our nation. It must also provide opportunities for our world-renowned production sector, and to be able to adapt and thrive as technology and viewing habits change at an unprecedented pace.
The government is open to the broadest range of ideas, views and evidence to inform the design of this pilot. We want to take this opportunity to consider fully how a fund should be targeted, how it should operate and be administered, with a view to delivering the best outcomes for viewers and the system as a whole.
Government will be piloting a contestable scheme which will receive up to £60 million of funding over two to three years, after which the impact of the scheme will be assessed and a decision taken about whether to close, maintain or expand the scheme.
A consultation launched today seeks views from broadcasters, producers, viewers and others on how the fund can be created and distributed to strengthen value for money provision of under-provided PSB content. This includes a call for evidence and views in four main areas:
- Focus of the fund
- Distribution platforms
- Pilot administration
- Eligibility criteria
The consultation launch comes days after the Government published the new BBC Charter and framework agreement. This is the culmination of a year long process aimed at helping the BBC adapt to the changing digital world and making sure it continues to thrive, deliver for audiences, and act as an engine of creativity and growth for the UK. The new Charter will come into effect on 1 January 2017.
Media enquiries - please contact the DCMS News and Communications team on 020 7211 2210.
Notes to editors
Consultation document is available here
The new Royal Charter and framework agreement are available here
The Third Review of Public Service Broadcasting, published by Ofcom in July 2015, noted (a) a recent decline in spend on new UK comedy, with spend falling by 30% in real terms since 2008 to £103m, (b) relatively low public service broadcasting provision in arts and classical music (£41m first-run UK-originated spend in 2014, down 25% on 2008), (c) that provision has all but ceased in religion and ethics (£13m, down 26%) and formal education (£7m, down 77%), and (d) that there is limited provision of non-animation programming for children beyond the BBC since 2008, spend by ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 dropped by 74% overall, to just £3m in 2014, with the BBC accounting for almost 97% of spend.