Channels 3 and 5 are to have their licences renewed for another 10 years, Culture Secretary Maria Miller announced today, subject to negotiations which include the levels of public service broadcasting.
The decision will give both Channel 3 and 5 the security required to plan and deliver public service programming and the confidence to invest in programming. The decision offers significant value to the creative industries as Channels 3 and 5 invest around £800 million a year in original content.
Following the decision by the Culture Secretary, Ofcom will be asked to start discussions with the licence holders on the cost and terms of the renewals. The Channel 3 licences are held by ITV in England, Wales and The Channel Islands, STV in Scotland and UTV in Northern Ireland while the Channel 5 licence is held by Northern & Shell.
Culture Secretary Maria Miller said:
Renewing the licences for Channel 3 and 5 will enable us to secure a strong and diverse future for public service broadcasting.
And in these tough economic times, my decision will give the current licence holders - multi million pound organisations - the security they need to grow and invest.
I intend for the licence renewals to deliver a good deal for viewers and the UK economy and also create certainty in the market during these difficult economic times.
The UK is in a global race, and the TV programmes produced for 3 and 5 are exported around the world. Renewing the licences will ensure the holders can continue to invest in original UK content.
After considering advice from Ofcom, the Culture Secretary has decided the licences should be renewed for the full 10 years. She has written to the regulator asking it to negotiate the licences, and highlighted the issues she wants looked at as part of that process. Those issues are:
- The need to work with the licence holders to maintain, or even increase, the current level of public service requirements, such as the amount of news or original content.
- Under proposals advanced by ITV, viewers in the south of Scotland would not receive the same level of programming about Scotland as those in the northern and central parts of the country. The Culture Secretary said she wanted to see a way forward that addressed the concerns of viewers in the Border region.
At the Culture Secretary’s request, Northern & Shell has made a commitment for the first time about investing in programmes for children on Channel 5. The channel has said it will broadcast at least 600 hours of UK-originated children’s programmes a year and this would comprise at least half of children’s programmes on the channel.
She also agreed that Ofcom should progress the potential separation of the Wales and West Channel 3 licence region.
The licences for Channel 3 and 5 expire on 31 December 2014 and Ofcom are expected to agree and complete the negotiations by then. However, Mrs Miller is prepared to extend the licences by a year if the necessary negotiations are not completed in time.
Notes to Editors
The Secretary of State can instruct Ofcom to renew the licences for a full 10 years, extend for a limited period or auction the licences. Ofcom are required to produce a report to the Secretary of State under section 229 of the Communications Act 2003. In the report, Ofcom give their opinion on whether the existing licence holders will be able to contribute, at a commercially sustainable cost, to the fulfilment of the public service broadcasting purposes in the 10 years from 2015.
The letter from the Culture Secretary to Ofcom detailing her decision is available from the DCMS website.
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