Ofcom publishes new research on international perspectives on PSB

posted on 26 November, 2020   (public)

Report provides insights into perceptions of the UK PSM as well as other countries’ approaches

As part of its review of Public Service Broadcasting (PSB), Ofcom has launched ‘Small Screen: Big Debate’, a nationwide forum to facilitate conversations with broadcasters, producers, government, Parliament and viewers’ groups about the future of PSB. Ofcom plays a central role in driving this discussion, drawing on a range of views, evidence and research. (The highlights and sessions from Ofcom's virtual conference on the future of PSB, featuring BBC Director-General Tim Davies, are available here).

Ofcom recently commissioned consultants from Ernst Young (EY) to carry out research into international perspectives on UK public service broadcasting, covering views on the quality of UK PSB content, as well as broader analysis of the approach to funding PSB and how PSBs are adapting to changing viewing habits. The initial motivation for the report was to gain insights into perceptions of the UK system, but the research also provided fascinating insights into other countries’ approaches to the full range of PSB policy issues.

As part of the research, EY interviewed 21 experts from across the world, from a mix of PSBs and commercial broadcasters in other markets, multinational media companies, streaming services, international broadcasting bodies and academic institutions. The research focused primarily on countries with PSB systems that have the most comparable characteristics to the UK, including Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Italy, as well as Canada, the USA, Australia and New Zealand.

Discussions covered topics including the quality of content produced by PSBs, measures to support the independent production sector, approaches to funding public service broadcasting, and strategies to appeal to young people and respond to increasing online viewing.

The report sets out the detailed findings and insights from the research. The five key findings from the report are summarised below:

  1. PSB content is recognised for being among the best in the world in terms of quality. There is a sense that the challenge for the PSBs isn’t rooted in the quality of the content they produce, but in how they promote and distribute that content to audiences.
  2. Supporting the domestic independent production sector is seen as a key role for PSBs across the world. In the UK PSBs are seen as playing an important role in investing in and developing talent at an early stage, which can be more difficult for purely commercial organisations to do.
  3. Stability and independence are important considerations in funding PSB, but there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to funding. The most appropriate method will vary between countries depending on cultural, historical and commercial factors, and so a bespoke approach needs to be taken to designing funding for public service broadcasting in each country.
  4. PSBs globally need to do more to attract young people. Content must be relevant for young people, but equally, should be distributed on platforms that resonate with them – though there is a risk that young people may not recognise that the content on these platforms is provided by the PSBs. Generally, PSBs recognised the importance of finding ways to remain relevant to younger audiences to support the long-term sustainability of public service broadcasting.
  5. The fragmentation of media consumption may mean that new metrics are needed to measure the distinct value that PSBs bring to a society, relative to commercial competitors. The challenge is to articulate the value of public service broadcasting in a way that resonates with all parts of modern societies.



Author: Ofcom