Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Ofcom's Public Service Broadcasting Annual Report

Media regulator Ofcom has published its 2009 Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) Annual Report.

PSB broadcasters are the BBC, ITV1, GMTV, Channel 4, Five, S4C and Teletext and the report is intended to provide "an up-to-date evidence base of the current delivery of public service content in the UK and gives a factual account of broadcast hours, viewing figures and audience opinions of the channels over the last five years."

The findings are not encouraging for anyone who values PSB, with output and expenditure down across the board. First-run originated output spend is down by just under 15% since 2004 and viewing down by a similar amount. About the only good news is that online viewing options, such as the BBC iPlayer, have increased the accessibility of content.

Children's programming has been particularly badly hit: "UK first-run originated hours of Children’s programmes broadcast on the five main PSB channels and on CBeebies/CBBC fell by 51% between 2004 and 2008. Investment in first-run originated children’s programming by these channels fell by just over a third between 2004 and 2008, with spend by the commercial PSBs down from £42m to £11m.

"There was also a reduction in the proportion of viewing by children of the Children’s genre on the five main PSB channels (32% in 2004 to 12% in 2008). Despite increased viewing on the BBC digital children’s channels (from 15% in 2004 to 24% in 2008), there was an overall decrease in the proportion of viewing on the five main PSB channels and BBC digital channels combined (47% in 2004 to 36% in 2008)."

However, "the dedicated Children’s channels, CBBC and CBeebies, received high ratings on offering a wide range of high-quality and UK-made programmes for children from the parents of children regularly watching them; 71% rated CBBC highly and 82% rated CBeebies highly on this measure in 2008."

The report's findings have led some to question whether the BBC has set its priorities correctly, given that PSB is supposed to be the cornerstone of its programming priorities.

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