On 8 October 2015, following a request from the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (The Secretary of State), Ofcom announced it was conducting a formal review of the TV production sector in the UK. The review will focus specifically on the regulation of the public broadcasting sector, and how it is affecting content investment by public service broadcasters (PSBs).
The review sits against the growing uncertainty for PSBs about the future shape of the programme supply market, caused in part by consolidation of the independent production sector and the acquisition of major UK producers by large foreign media corporations. The Secretary of State is concerned that the current system may unfairly disadvantage PSBs in their commercial negotiations with production companies.
Currently under the Communications Act 2003 (the Act), PSBs are required to commission at least 25 per cent of qualifying programmes1 from independent producers2. The Act also requires that the provider of every licensed PSB keep an up-to-date code of practice setting out the principles it will apply when negotiating the commission of independent productions (the so-called 'Terms of Trade').
The Secretary of State has asked Ofcom to assess the full range of reform options for the main elements of the regulations (such as the terms of trade, quotas, and the definition of independent production) and its likely impact on PSBs, independent producers and any other relevant parties.
The Secretary of State has also asked Ofcom to consider how the regulations can be used to promote content production (particularly in at-risk genres such as current affairs, children's TV and religious programmes).
Ofcom's review will be divided into four key work streams:
- the changing market context, and how that has and will affect the structure of the TV production industry;
- the effectiveness of the current regime, assessing how well the current objectives of the regime are met and the extent this is due to regulation, and whether the interventions will deliver good outcomes in the future;
- the impact of regulation on PSBs, considering how the PSBs are affected by the production sector regime both individually and the delivery of wider PSB purposes and characteristics; and
- options for future regulatory reform.
Ofcom will engage with stakeholders throughout the review, and has invited interested parties to comment on its scope or content by the end of October. It intends to publish a final report before Christmas.