Written evidence submitted by Together TV






DCMS Committee Call for Evidence into the Media Bill 2023


Thank you for publishing the call for evidence regarding the draft Media Bill. 


Please find Together TV’s submission below. This follows a submission to The Future of Channel 4 inquiry and submission to Public Service Broadcast in the Age of Video on Demand inquiry (both House of Lords’ Digital & Communications Committee) and a submission to Ofcom’s Small Screen Big Debate.




1.1                                         Together TV is the UK’s only national broadcaster with charitable purpose combined with community ownership.


1.2                             As an independent broadcaster and long-term public media partner of the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 we believe that public service media has a distinct role in the media ecology and has a unique place in the fabric of British life - socially, economically, culturally and democratically.


1.3                            In the world of global streamers, OEM / consumer electronics manufacturers and big tech ecosystems, the PSBs are our national champions of television content. They are bastions of media plurality set against the context of increasing media, telecoms and technology consolidation.


1.4                            Together TV also recognises the improved consumer choice, innovation and content investment created by TV platform operators and SVOD/AVOD streamers in the TV ecology, much of which has driven the decade-long GVA growth in the creative sector.


1.5                            The new Media Bill should set the regulatory framework that enables the continued success of all players in the media landscape, growing the sector locally, nationally and internationally.


1.6                            The TV industry is going through a period of structural change in consumer habits, in how audiences access, watch and engage with content from newer forms of media (gaming, social media) and routes to media (streamers, video-sharing platforms and OEM).


1.7                             What remains constant is the need for the UK public to be able to access public service media that delivers content that informs, educates and entertains, providing trusted news and current affairs, bringing the nations together for major events, life-long learning and reflecting the diversity of our communities and cultures back to its audiences.


1.8                             Together TV recognises that there is a generational requirement for the continued support of universal free-to-view linear television, delivered by DTT to the 15+ million older viewers who do not watch TV via streaming. This is the audience Together TV, in partnership with the PSBs, works to serve.


1.9                             This cohort is still heavily analogue in habit and love local radio and local newspapers. They reject online shopping, online banking and all social media apart from Facebook (BARB data provided by Digital-I).


1.10                            This demographic divide in consumer habits may take decades to be resolved, as the resilience of some legacy media - such as radio - attests. Together TV welcomes the government commitment to DTT until 2034, supports the UK’s position of “no change” at the World Radio Conference in 2023 and supports the Broadcast 2040+ campaign to extend DTT spectrum beyond 2034.


1.11                             The Media Bill recognises these ongoing shifts and strikes a balance between the competing demands across the sector - updating public service provision so the ‘compact’ is fit for the future, ensuring a fair and responsible playing field for all TV-like content services, protecting consumers from harmful material, and promoting competition.


1.12                            Together TV supports the Media Bill and the ongoing viability of universal free-to-air TV for the millions of viewers who value and enjoy it.


About Together TV


2.1              Together TV occupies a unique position in the UK public service broadcast landscape, inspiring positive change, motivating viewers to take action and help others. It is the world’s only national broadcaster owned as a charitable cooperative for the benefit of the community.


2.2                             Launched in 2000 as the Community Channel, over half of all UK adults (25m) have watched Together TV since its relaunch in 2018. It is regularly watched by five to seven million unique TV viewers a month of whom 60% are 65+. They are digitally disconnected and often socially isolated, in lower-income households and live right across the UK, particularly the midlands, north and in rural areas. This audience is still highly analogue in habit and unlikely to migrate to streaming services.


2.3                            Together TV provides a route for these people to be inspired to connect. It connects with communities directly and engages individuals with activations. It brings the power of local to a national audience - directly reaching and engaging viewers with a mix of targeted activities, links to local charities and direct personal communications


2.4            Together TV is the only TV channel that is a trusted partner for all the PSBs and TV platform operators, stimulating collaboration for the public good. Its board includes representatives from the PSBs, platform operators and charities. In partnership, Together TV complements these organisations, amplifying their content and extending their social purpose campaigns.


2.5                            Together TV broadcasts on Freeview, Sky (plus Sky Glass and Sky Stream), Virgin Media and Freesat with a streaming service on smart TVs, desktop and mobile. Together TV is self-funded but reliant on DTT capacity to deliver the audiences, engagement and advertising revenue on which it relies – security on DTT is vital to Together TV’s continued viability. 


2.6                            As a result of watching the channel and engaging with Together TV’s behaviour change campaigns, viewers learn more and participate more fully in their community.


2.7                            During the Covid-19 the You Are Not Alone campaign directly supported thousands isolated and vulnerable viewers, connecting them with local community support and mutual aid groups via TV, phone, SMS/WhatsApp, email and online. This campaign has been revived as a Cost-Of-Living support campaign delivered via  personalised and localised SMS messages. 


2.8                            Since 2021 over 200,000 individuals and 1000+ community groups have registered and participated in campaigns including the Sunflower Challenge, Green Challenge and DIY Challenge, receiving kits and charts through the post along with 12 weeks of emails, texts, videos, wellbeing surveys, competitions and galleries. Participants (base n~15k) reported consistent increases in Wellbeing, decreased Social Isolation, increased Community Connection and strong increases in positive Social Impact. Ofcom’s Media Literacy team profiled these campaigns as an exemplar of community engagement.


2.9                            Additionally, research by Opinium in April 2023 reported 85% of Together TV viewers said they took action as a result of watching the channel – recycling, being in nature and visiting heritage sites.


2.10                            Together TV champions diverse and independent filmmakers and community content. Its Diverse Film Fund won a BAFTA in its first year for Our Land and was nominated in its second year for Always, Asifa. The films have been licenced for free to ITV Hub, Sky and Virgin Media to expand their reach and profile. This approach is unique to Together TV.


2.11             Together TV matters to charities, giving vital exposure to their good works and broadcasting films from Ofcom-funded British Sign Language Broadcasting Trust to charity appeals from BBC Lifeline and DEC. It also broadcasts short-form content from NHS and DCMS campaigns along with Hubbub, Aging Better, Locality, MIND and Hearing Dogs for the Deaf. Together TV is an accredited NHS mental health resource and a member of the Connections Coalition and Together Coalition.




Public Service Broadcasting


Should the Media Bill provide a clear definition of what prominence in online services looks like?


3.1              Prominence and discoverability are key drivers of TV consumption. The top EPG slots still remain valuable for the habitual linear audience. However, EPG prominence is now coupled with on-platform app discoverability as new OEM ecologies have developed along with video-sharing platforms and FAST channel services.


3.2                            Public service content needs to be discoverable in any designated TV service selection environment that the public consume TV content – whether delivered within a branded app, as discrete linear / FAST channels or as a curated on-demand service


3.3                            The Media Bill needs to provide a clear, proportionate and flexible definition of what prominence on internet-delivered services looks like, giving service-neutral guidance as to which kinds of existing platforms are in scope and yet making provision to adapt for ongoing changes and for new platforms and services may launch in the coming years.  

3.4                            As the Up Next white paper noted, PSB prominence plays a crucial role by boosting viewership and engagement and as such a must-carry obligation may be appropriate on designated TV platforms expected to be Smart TVs and pay TV operators, as well as connected TV devices such as streaming sticks and set top boxes.

3.5                            The investment in public service content by the PSBs, particularly funded by the licence fee, needs to be valued and recognised by the public. As such brand attribution for master, service and content brands within all designated TV selection platforms and content services is essential.   


Are proposals allowing a Public Service Broadcaster to meet its remit by online programming as well as linear appropriate?


3.6                            The proposals should provide flexibility in how PSBs deliver their objectives to appropriate audiences by platform. Some content may be designed and suited for VOD premieres (e.g. ITVX) or through video-sharing platforms (e.g. Channel 4.0).


3.7                            However one of the unintended consequences of this is that the public purpose of reflecting the diversity of UK cultures back to the UK to viewers still accessing linear TV may be reduced, as content created for younger audiences, niche interests, or as test-beds for diverse talent and representation may live online only, in PBS streaming services, YouTube and Tik Tok, increasing the demographic divide. 


Are the proposals in the draft Bill adequate for securing the future of Channel 4 and supporting independent content producers?


3.8                            As stated in the Up Next paper, of all the PSBs Channel 4 has the greatest reliance on advertising and so is the most exposed to the declining linear TV ad market and the economic cycles in media spending. It does not have material income streams that can offset downturns in the ad market.


3.9                            Enders Analysis in April 2020 highlighted that Channel 4 was disproportionately impacted by the covid pandemic as 81% of its revenues came from advertising, compared to 53% for ITV, 7% for Sky and 2% for the BBC.


3.10                            As Together TV’s submission to the House of Lords Communications committee states “Channel 4’s publisher model means it cannot diversify its income through productionslooking across to BBC Studios, ITV Studios and Viacom International Studios UK, Channel 4 stands as the lone national PSB without an owned production business. Sky and US studios such as Warner Mediaall have substantial footprints in the indie sector.


3.11              Channel 4 reinvests hundreds of millions each year into the independent production sector to incubate new programme ideas. This – along with the wider PSB content spend - has led to the UK becoming a leading global exporter of TV formats and content licencing.


3.12                            The finely-balanced ecology needs to ensure enough value is being retained by Channel 4 for its long-term health as well as supporting the indie sector and the thousands of jobs which Channel 4 sustains.


3.13                            Together TV supports the evolution of Channel 4’s model to give it the tools it needs to be remain vibrant, distinctive and competitive.


Do the proposals for S4C meet the legislative changes required by the independent S4C review in 2018, and are these changes still relevant and appropriate today?


3.14                            [Intentionally Blank]


Is the draft bill sufficiently flexible to legislate for any future extension of the Listed Events regime to include digital content?


3.15                            [Intentionally Blank]




Are the requirements for the Tier 1 standards code proportionate?


4.1                            Audiences reasonably expect that the TV content they consume meets appropriate standards, regardless of the platform or provider of the content. This includes ensuring there is appropriate guidance labelling to inform viewing decisions, and that material is complied so that offensive and harmful material is excluded and that programming is factually accurate and fair to contributors and companies featured.


4.2                            The Tier 1 on-demand providers have already taken steps to demonstrate they are responsible players, such as Netflix adopting the BBFC ratings. Not all the Tier 1 providers are within jurisdiction currently and so bringing them into the UK regulatory regime is appropriate.


Are accessibility requirements for Video on Demand set at an appropriate level?


4.3                            On-Demand services have been available to viewers for over 15 years and it is appropriate that subtitles, signing and audio description is available to the 70%+ of homes that access VOD services. There are often technology / interoperability challenges in provision of some of these services across multiple platforms and devices and so progressively phasing in statutory requirements and targets would be a clear and proportionate way for Ofcom to deliver the best outcomes.  


Do the proposals in the draft Media Bill create any risks to UK’s desirability as a market for VoD content?


4.4                            [Intentionally Blank]


What should be the specific criteria for designating an on-demand programme service as Tier 1?


4.5                             [Intentionally Blank]





Is the definition of a radio selection service appropriate?


5.1                            [Intentionally Blank]


Is the definition of an internet radio service appropriate?


5.2                            [Intentionally Blank]


Are the obligations on radio selection services proportionate?


5.3                            [Intentionally Blank]


Does the draft Media Bill sufficiently protect the relevant internet radio service to be played in response to a voice command?


5.4                            [Intentionally Blank]


Are the provisions in the draft Bill sufficient to protect the identity and content of local radio?


5.5                            [Intentionally Blank]



General issues


Is Ofcom able to deliver its new and updated obligations set out in the draft bill?


6.1                            [Intentionally Blank]


Is the draft bill flexible enough to address future developments in audience habits and new technology?


6.2                            [Intentionally Blank]


Does the draft Bill provide sufficient protection for those without internet access or who prefer to use broadcast services?


6.3                            There is a demographic divide with millions of older TV viewers unlikely to ever take up streaming services as the main way to access TV content, free or paid, and this ingrained consumer behaviour is likely to continue for the next 20+ years. Robust support for universal free-to-air DTT broadcast is needed to 2040 and beyond.  


Are the proposed powers to be given to the Secretary of State proportionate?


6.4                            [Intentionally Blank]


Does the draft bill sufficiently address failures of retained EU law to operate effectively and other deficiencies arising from the withdrawal of the UK from the UK?


6.5                            [Intentionally Blank]


Are there any issues missing from the draft Bill within the scope of public service broadcasting, video-on-demand or radio?


6.6                            As detailed in the Up Next paper, the outcome of Ofcom’s Small Screen Big Debate consultation was a recommendation to opening up public service broadcasting to a wider definition of public service media, such as the news, factual and arts content produced by Sky and Discovery. This has not been taken up in this Media Bill and will be considered in future reforms.


6.7                            Together TV would welcome this as it believes that a broader definition of public service media could recognise the value delivered by (sometimes small, independent) players outside the existing PSB regime.


6.8                            The Up Next paper detailed the need of the sector to promote equality of opportunity, particularly in making the industry more representative at all levels of the workforce particularly for D/deaf, disabled and neurodiverse talent, and ethnic minority representation at senior level. A clear and mandated route to achieving these much-needed objectives is needed.  


6.9                            Skilled off-screen talent is the life-blood of the sector, with new talent key to this. The Apprenticeship Levy requires amending or adapting to the freelance nature of the TV production workforce in particular, as jobs are rarely for the 12-month period of an Apprenticeship.  


6.10                            Greater cross-sector collaboration is needed to spark new initiatives. The Up Next paper details in particular that the BBC Charter contains a requirement for the BBC to work collaboratively with other organisations, particularly in the creative economy, and we will continue to look at how this behaviour can be encouraged throughout the wider PSB system. Collaboration can also help ensure that audiences continue to benefit from a plurality of voices and perspectives.


6.11                            Together TV believes in the power of partnerships and creative collaborations. Formalising this as a requirement in the Media Bill could catalyse a new stage in cross-sector partnerships, bringing together media with the arts, heritage, health, academic and voluntary sectors to name a few. Together TV can would welcome a strong commitment to partnership working in the Media Bill.  


6.12                            The Media Bill does not put any provisions in place to encourage and retain the Intellectual Property created across the media sector – from programme formats to new technologies in streaming and electronic devices. The creative industries are not eligible for R&D tax credits. The Media Bill – as it looks ahead to a future of ubiquitous AI, XR, web3.0 and 6G should enable the sector to innovate and protect this investment.


Do you have any recommendations for additional or amended drafting to the draft Bill?


6.13                            Prominence is a challenge for all broadcasters as distribution platforms multiply (across operators, smart TV, web, mobile) and TV-like services available on these platforms expands into AVOD, SVOD and FAST content environments.


6.14                            Whilst non-PSB broadcasters cannot expect the regulatory benefits allocated to the PSBs as part of the ‘compact,’ the issue of prominence, visibility and discoverability is very real. Securing prominence, promotional spaces or app store support on TV app stores is a major challenge.

6.15                            For over twenty years, Together TV has created positive social change through its public service partnerships with the PSBs and platform operators. Its unique model gives airspace to diverse, nuanced and community-driven films, including the industry-funded signed content in BSL Zone, charity campaigns and government campaigns (for the NHS, DCMS and Cabinet Office).


6.16                            Together TV’s success is tied into the enduring success of the PSB and TV platform ecology, and so Together TV supports the swift implementation of the prominence regime once the Media Bill has passed.     



We hope this submission is useful and look forward to your findings.


[May 2023]