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The future of public service broadcasting


The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee announces an inquiry into ‘The future of public service broadcasting’. The inquiry will look at the future of public service broadcasting (PSB) within the wider media and digital ecology, including funding, content and regulation of PSBs and how this compares with alternative subscription, streaming services and Freeview services.

In addition to the BBC, there are a number of other broadcasters across the UK with PSB responsibilities: ITV (Channel 3), Channel 4, Channel 5 operate nationally, and STV (Scotland), S4C (Wales) and UTV (Northern Ireland) operate in the devolved nations.

The BBC’s remit is set out in its Charter, whereas ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 are provided for in the Communications Act 2003. The main priority of a PSB is to broadcast content intended for the public benefit, rather than for commercial gain.

The TV licence fee is currently a legal obligation for anyone wishing to watch live broadcast television or use the BBC’s catch-up service, iPlayer. In January 2020, DCMS announced an open consultation on decriminalisation of licence fee evasion, to end on 1 April. The cost of funding free licence fees for over-75s will transfer to the BBC in June 2020. The inquiry will examine these developments as part of a broader examination of funding models, and consequential effects on the finances of the BBC, including pay and cuts to some parts of the service.

The inquiry will also examine the impact of technological innovation in the sector – for example, streaming services – on all PSBs.

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