Written evidence submitted by PEC team at Cardiff University


Dr Tom Chivers and Professor Stuart Allan


On behalf of the ‘Arts, Culture and Public Service Broadcasting’ workstrand
Creative Industries Policy & Evidence Centre (PEC, led by Nesta)


House of Commons DCMS Committee Media Bill pre-legislative scrutiny


Executive Summary

  1. As the first major reform of broadcasting legislation since 2003, the draft Media Bill will have a formative impact on how UK TV, radio and online broadcasting services will operate for many years to come. Thorough public scrutiny of what the Bill entails is therefore essential to ensure its proposed reforms serve the needs and interests of British audiences, as well as the country’s world-leading creative industries.
  2. The PEC team at Cardiff University is concerned that core parts of the draft Media Bill may reduce the range and diversity of content made for UK audiences, limit the universal accessibility of public service content, and risk diminishing the public value of the PSB ecology. The Bill’s proposals relating to PSB – particularly those concerning the new public service remit for television – may generate policy outcomes that prove contrary to the stated objectives and principles set out by government.

Based on the evidence and analysis presented in our answers below, the PEC team at Cardiff University recommends:

  1. The revised public service remit for television be redrafted to explicitly include the most important, publicly valued genres of audiovisual content. As we detail in Appendix 1, the revised remit removes all requirements for Ofcom to monitor PSBs’ contributions to drama, arts, education, science, religion and specialist interest programming – genres that are socially and culturally significant for UK audiences’ needs and interests.
  2. The expanded prominence framework for new online and digital services should follow a principles-based approach, one that supports the overarching goals of universal accessibility and discovery for all UK audiences large or small. Measures should protect discoverability and prominence for all audiences equally, require “significant” rather than just appropriate” prominence, and support arrangements with selection service providers that give PSBs and Ofcom the necessary information to properly evaluate the effectiveness of the prominence regime.

5. Requiring that public service content is ‘made available’, rather than just provided via television, is an important and appropriate update to how PSBs can best fulfil their remit obligations. However, these changes to PSB content delivery should not be made at the expense of the large proportion of UK audiences who still rely on linear broadcast formats, particularly older audiences and/or those with limited access to the internet. Free-to-air television and live broadcasting are pivotal to the national collective experience made possible by PSB, and these formats should not be deprioritised in a rush towards ‘digital only’ strategies.

  1. Reforms to the governance of S4C should include measures that enhance its independence and the representation of audience interests on the new unitary board. We would encourage a wider debate on the potential for creating or revising non-executive roles, including explicit responsibility for representing Welsh regions and distinct community interests (as in the case of Nations representatives on the BBC Board).
  2. Removing Channel 4’s publisher-broadcaster status would drastically reduce the scale and value of commissioning opportunities available to UK independent producers, endanger jobs in hundreds of SME production companies and limit creative competition in Channel 4 commissioning. Any reforms to Channel 4 should prioritise supporting SME independent UK producers through a strengthened quota framework, refocus Channel 4’s founding remit for innovation and serving minority audiences, and introduce a new duty for serving and appealing to younger audiences.
  3. Ofcom’s role in monitoring the PSB remit should be expanded to require continual reviews and public consultation about the purposes and values of PSB. Ofcom should have a duty to enhance direct public participation in the future definition and strategy of UK PSB.


Author information

  1. This submission is co-authored by Dr Tom Chivers ( and Professor Stuart Allan ( on behalf of the ‘Arts, Culture and Public Service Broadcasting’ workstrand at Cardiff University, as part of the larger Creative Industries Policy & Evidence Centre (PEC).

Tom Chivers is a Research Associate with Cardiff University, working with PEC’s ‘Arts, Culture and Public Service Broadcasting’ workstrand. He holds a doctorate in Media and Communications from Goldsmiths, University of London.

Stuart Allan is Professor of Journalism and Communication in the School of Journalism, Media and Culture at Cardiff University. He is the lead on the ‘Arts, Culture and Public Service Broadcasting’ workstrand for the Cultural Industries Policy & Evidence Centre.

The PEC is co-ordinated by Nesta, the innovation foundation, and involves a UK-wide consortium of universities. Contacts: Eliza Easton – and Professor Bruce Tether



  1. The PEC team at Cardiff University welcomes this opportunity to contribute to the Committee’s pre-legislative scrutiny of the Media Bill. As the first major reform of broadcasting legislation since 2003, the Bill will have a formative impact on how TV, radio and online broadcasting services will operate in the UK for many years to come. Public scrutiny of what the Bill entails is essential to ensure its proposed reforms serve the needs and interests of British viewers and listeners, as well as our country’s world-leading creative industries.
  2. This submission draws on our research into the ‘public value’ of public service broadcasting (PSB) in the UK. Our discussion paper, ‘What is the Public Value of Public Service Broadcasting?’, examines the challenges and opportunities facing the UK’s unique model of PSB.[1] Across the breadth of primary legislation, regulatory schemes and policy strategies, we have identified six distinct types of public value – social, cultural, economic, industrial, representational and civic – encompassing the objectives and purposes that PSB creates. All five of the UK’s PSBs – the BBC, Channel 4, ITV, Channel 5 and S4C – contribute to the delivery of these values, reflecting the considerable public value generated by this mixed model of publicly-funded, publicly-owned and commercial public broadcasting.
  3. The UK broadcasting landscape has changed significantly in the 30-year period of the existing legislative regime. Audiences can find and access an unprecedent volume of audiovisual content from a wide range of domestic PSBs, multichannel broadcasters and international services. New global production studios, hybrid financing models and lucrative international audience demand have all intensified competition in UK content commissioning and production. New digital technologies have also radically transformed how audiovisual content is funded, distributed and consumed, with catch-up and on-demand viewing and listening comprising a substantial share of UK audiences’ daily broadcast content consumption.[2] It is important that current UK legislation is reviewed, and updated where necessary, to ensure broadcasters and the wider industry can adapt effectively to the modern media landscape and provide the greatest possible public benefit for British audiences.
  4. At the same time, the current legislation enshrines core principles, purposes and regulatory commitments that underpin the UK’s unique model of PSBthe public service remit for television.[3] Amidst a contemporary media environment defined by high competition and consumer choice, this remit remains highly valued by UK audiences. It is central to the public’s expectations for the broadcasting services they regularly use.[4] Its principles not only underpin the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and S4C, they have been pivotal to the growth of the UK’s world leading independent production sector and wider creative industries. It is imperative that any reforms to the public service remit are very carefully considered, to ensure prospective changes do not damage or diminish the quality, range and diversity of public service content made for UK audiences.
  5. In responding to the Committee’s questions for pre-legislative scrutiny, we primarily comment on how the proposed changes relate to public service broadcasting. We respectfully advise that scrutiny of the Media Bill must begin by acknowledging the wide-ranging benefits UK PSB creates, and on this basis assess the possible risks, threats and opportunities for any proposed changes to the public service remit and wider broadcasting legislation entailed in the draft Bill.


Response to Committee questions

Public Service Broadcasting


Revisions to the public service remit for television

  1. Clause 1 of the Media Bill radically revises Section 264 of the Communications Act 2003, which defines the public service remit for television broadcasting and Ofcom’s duties to review and report on UK PSBs’ fulfilment of this remit. We note with concern that these amendments do not feature amongst the Committee’s topical questions for pre-legislative scrutiny, given the significant and wide-ranging impacts the proposed reforms to Section 264 could have on the public value of UK public service broadcasting.
  2. Under the current 2003 Act, Subsections 264(4) and 264(6) explicitly detail the purposes of the remit and the manner in which PSBs should, “taken together”, ensure the remit is fulfilled. This includes producing sufficient content in specific genres (e.g., news, drama, comedy, music, education, religion), satisfying various audience needs and interests (e.g., civic understanding, sports and leisure) and “reflecting the lives and concerns” of different communities and localities in the UK (including original programmes for children and young people).
  3. These subsections are the legislative bedrock of the UK’s PSB model: they establish the ‘manner and matter’ of PSB service fulfilment that Ofcom is required to review, and in turn these objectives set the precedent for the PSBs’ regulatory obligations (as set by Ofcom in service licences) and their respective statements of programme policy.
  4. In the April 2022 DCMS White Paper, the government stated its intention to update the public service remit for television to adapt to “the latest trends and developments in the sector”.[5] To do this, the White Paper proposed replacing what it called “the outdated set of fourteen overlapping ‘purposes’ and ‘objectives’ … with a new, shorter remit” focussing on three general kinds of content: culturally relevant, economically important and democratically impactful. The White Paper offered no rationale beyond ‘modernisation’ for narrowing the remit to just these categories, and we are disappointed that no further evidence or justifications have been provided alongside the publication of the Media Bill.
  5. As we have detailed in Appendix 1, Clause 1 of the Media Bill substantially reduces the responsibility of Ofcom to monitor PSBs’ delivery of content in vital public service genres. Ofcom will no longer be required to monitor and report on the extent to which UK PSBs’ content and services meet the following foundational PSB objectives: providing educational programming; reflecting cultural activity through drama, comedy or the arts; satisfying sporting and leisure interests; or providing programmes about science, religion, belief systems or specialist interests. The relaxed requirements would effectively enable PSBs to reduce their investment in the production of these socially and culturally significant genres (thereby diminishing the public value created for audiences), while still ostensibly fulfilling their expectations under the revised public service remit.
  6. In effect Clause 1 of the Media Bill undermines the meaningful legislative definition of public service broadcasting and its purposes as set out in Section 264 of the Communications Act 2003. The revised remit would set minimalist provisions for four generalised requirements of PSBs: news and current affairs content that facilitates civic understanding and debate (5a); content that reflects the lives and traditions of UK communities, regions and local languages (5b); original productions for children and young people (5c); and content made by an appropriate range of independent producers, including UK producers outside of London (5d).
  7. These requirements need to be strengthened, not minimalised. The rationale for greater investment aligns closely with our own typology of the six public values of PSB.[6] We particularly welcome the recognition given in the draft Bill to the importance of serving and appealing to children and younger audiences with content that helps them understand the world around them and ‘see themselves on screen’.[7] The emphasis on content that represents and reflects all voices and identities in British society is equally laudable.
  8. However, these four requirements do not capture the full range of genres, objectives and benefits that the British public expects from public service broadcasting. The Media Bill’s removal of education, science and arts from the remit would limit the universality of PSB, a principle which (as the Committee itself has argued) has been central to PSBs contributing to a shared sense of national community.[8] Similarly, the principle that entertainment forms an essential part of both the value and the appeal of PSB is absent both in the letter and the spirit of the Media Bill. Audience research has shown that the public recognises PSBs’ unique role in bringing people together through drama, comedy and arts, and offering ‘something for everyone’.[9]
  9. Ofcom could interpret some or all of the removed genres and objectives as necessary for fulfilling its revised PSB obligations. However, in removing its responsibility for monitoring the delivery of that content, Ofcom would be unequipped to identify the extent to which these genres are sufficiently available or serving audiences effectively. Ultimately it should not be the role of either Ofcom or the Secretary of State to identify and define what public service broadcasters exist to do. That authority must be exercised by Parliament, informed by and accountable to the needs and interests of the public, by setting out in legislation the explicit and distinct purposes and objectives of public service broadcasting (as is currently achieved by Section 264 of the Communications Act 2003).


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

  1. The prominence framework is an essential feature of the PSB ‘compact’. It ensures that UK viewers have free and convenient access to public service content with significant social and cultural value through linear broadcasting services. It provides a vital competitive edge to UK PSBs, particularly the commercially funded broadcasters, who benefit from greater audience visibility in exchange for meeting their public service obligations. As the media environment evolves, it is right that the prominence framework is expanded to guarantee universal accessibility across the new generation of devices and services that UK audiences use to watch and listen to audiovisual content.
  2. The proposals set out in Clause 23 of the Media Bill present a solid framework for securing PSB prominence on Smart TVs, pay-TV platforms and other designated platforms. However, the Bill does not currently provide sufficient detail outlining the practical function of three key elements in the revised prominence framework: designation, appropriate prominence and exchange arrangements. We recommend that each of these aspects is reviewed to prioritise a principles-based approach, one that emphasises the overarching public service goals that the prominence framework exists to support.
  3. The new prominence regime will hinge on its effectiveness in designating the “regulated television selection services” (RTSS) that must carry PSBs’ online services and content (Clause 23, 362AD-AE). At present, the draft Media Bill allows for the Secretary of State to designate an RTSS based on their assessment (alongside an Ofcom report) that the service is “used by a significant number of members of the public” in the UK. It is clearly impractical to quantify this ‘significant number’ within the Bill; ad hoc judgements and periodic public reviews, taking into account audience and market circumstances, are the correct approach. However, the designation process should also account for any TSS that is used by a substantial share of a distinct demographic profile, even if its status is relatively modest within the wider public. For example, a sizeable share of younger audiences may access audiovisual content through a particular TSS which is otherwise not used by a ‘significant number’ of the wider public. Without RTSS designation, that younger audience would be deprived of prominent access to UK PSB content on a service they use regularly, and would thus experience a diminished public service benefit from the prominence regime.
  4. The proposed ‘must carry’ and ‘must offer’ agreements struck between PSBs and RTSS require that PSB content and services are given “an appropriate degree of prominence” on the selection service (Clause 23, 362AI-AL). Although Ofcom’s ‘code of practice’ (362AM) will provide general recommendations for compliance, the term “appropriate degree” requires far greater qualitative detail than is currently provided in the draft Bill. A clearer approach, emphasising the social and cultural significance of PSB content for UK audiences, should instead require “a significant degree of prominence” with associated principles-based criteria set out in the legislation, such as: parity of prominence with other “designated internet programme services” (DIPS; i.e., services and content provided by PSBs) on the same RTSS; prioritised prominence relative to non-DIPS present on the same RTSS; and reasonable prominence relative to RTSS user experience features, such as app carousels, highlighted or promoted content and voice-activated searches.[10]
  5. ‘Prominence’ in the traditional, linear television sense is only one part of an effective approach to ensuring universal PSB accessibility on new devices and global platforms. The ‘agreement objectives’ made between PSBs and RTSS providers (Clause 23, 362AI) should be expanded to include a requirement to make available to Ofcom information relating to the RTSS and its functioning. This should be pursuant to ensuring both Ofcom and the PSB can evaluate whether the agreement is beneficial to both UK audiences and the aims of the PSB remit. This information needs to be specified within the Bill to cover data collected on audience usage habits, UI interactions and content preferences, notwithstanding the technological proprietary of the RTSS provider and the provisions set out in 362AI (5c).

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

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

  1. It is appropriate that the Media Bill should seek to update the language of legislation concerning how PSBs fulfil their remit obligations. It is vital to ensure that these provisions reflect the realities of widespread digital and online media use by UK audiences. Replacing references in the Communications Act 2003 to ‘relevant television services’ with ‘audiovisual’ content, as proposed by Clause 1 of the Media Bill, will afford PSBs greater flexibility in how they deliver their public service content.
  2. However, we are concerned that the requirement on PSBs to only ‘make available’ the various kinds of public service content does not sufficiently ensure that such content would be discoverable and accessible to all audiences in a way that achieves the overarching principle of universality. The provisions as currently drafted pose a risk that public service content could be ‘made available’ on PSBs’ on-demand platforms or digital content catalogues (for example as online-only series or digital content ‘brands’) in a way that is consistent with the fulfilment of remit obligations, yet the delivery or format of this content would not necessarily reach or benefit substantial parts of British audiences. We recommend that this language be clarified to recognise that availability in principle is not the same as delivery in practice.
  3. We are also concerned that removing the specification for television services could hasten a de facto ‘analogue switch off’ for public service television content, which would significantly disadvantage audiences who primarily or exclusively access broadcast content via live formats. Live TV and radio remain the most popular means for UK audiences to access audiovisual content on a daily basis, particularly amongst older audiences.[11] At the same time the uptake and availability of reliable, high-speed internet diverges across the country, both in terms of the regional roll-out of infrastructure and the affordability or relevance of these services to people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and those over 60 years of age.[12] It is vital that PSB content continues to be provided for free-to-air linear broadcast formats at a scale that reflects the enduring audience popularity of live TV. The Media Bill should thus be revised to specify the range of formats and platforms on which PSBs are required to provide their public service content.


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?

  1. Clause 26 of the Media Bill enables S4C to fulfil its public service remit and associated obligations via digital and online services, in addition to the S4C television channel. We consider these measures adequate for giving S4C flexibility in the provision of its programming. However, we reaffirm the same concerns registered above regarding the term ‘made available’, and the extent to which this may result in a reduced content offer for audiences whose primary or only means of access to S4C services is through linear formats.
  2. Clause 27 of the Media Bill replaces the S4C Authority with a unitary board, as proposed in the 2017 Williams Review. In our view the provisions as detailed are suitable for enabling the S4C board to proactively and robustly hold S4C accountable to its public service obligations. However, without seeking to relitigate the Williams recommendations, the Media Bill should also enhance the extent to which the S4C board represents and reflects the interests of S4C audiences. We would encourage a wider debate on the potential for creating or revising non-executive roles with explicit responsibility for representing Welsh regions and distinct community interests (as in the case of Nations representatives on the BBC Board). We would also welcome a debate on measures for requiring the S4C Board to engage and consult with Welsh audiences, expanding on the quantitative audience research already conducted to include the Welsh public much more directly in the governance and accountability of S4C.


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

  1. We warmly welcome the government’s decision to retain Channel 4 in public ownership. As we argued in our consultation submissions and public evidence statements, privatisation would have significantly reduced competition in programme commissioning and disrupted the UK’s wider broadcasting ecology.[13] The absence in the Media Bill of provisions to enact privatisation marks an encouraging and much-merited vote of confidence in Channel 4’s unique public service mission and the public value it creates, both for British audiences and the creative industries.
  2. However, we are deeply concerned that the Media Bill includes proposals to end Channel 4’s publisher-broadcaster status, and abolishes the provisions in Section 295 of the Communications Act 2003 banning Channel 4 from programme production. Channel 4’s publisher-broadcaster status is central to its distinctive role as a cultural and economic dynamo for the UK’s media ecology. Prohibiting in-house production has enabled substantial investment in the UK’s independent production sector and helped turn it into one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy. In 2021, Channel 4 commissions accounted for 11.2% of the £3.1bn total revenue of UK independent production companies (including revenue from international and domestic commissions and rights income) – equivalent to the combined sector revenue from all VOD companies.[14]
  3. Removing Channel 4’s publisher-broadcaster status, as proposed in Clause 25 of the Media Bill, would drastically reduce the scale and value of commissioning opportunities available to UK independent producers, endanger jobs in hundreds of UK SME production companies and limit creative competition in Channel 4 commissioning.[15] Allowing Channel 4 Corporation to establish its own ‘Channel 4 Studios’ production arm would necessarily result in fewer commissions for indies, as the broadcaster would seek to secure new commercial revenue streams through monetising its own IP. As industry analysts Oliver & Ohlbaum estimated, “between 2006 and 2019 195 new production companies became successful businesses following initial commissions from Channel 4”.[16] With the publisher-broadcaster status abolished, many new UK indies could be denied this opportunity for creative and commercial success – in turn diminishing the future industrial value and economic ‘spillovers’ for the UK created by Channel 4’s investments in the creative industries.[17]
  4. We note that the government has indicated it would consider increasing Channel 4’s requirements to meet the independent production quota, currently set at 25% for all licenced public service channels in Section 277 of the Communications Act 2003.[18] These measures to protect UK indies can and should go much further.
  5. If Channel 4’s publisher-broadcaster status is abolished, we would recommend that the Media Bill include additional provisions that strengthen Channel 4’s contributions to the commercial success and diversity of supply in the UK’s SME production sector. In 2021, three-quarters of Channel 4’s UK commissioning spend went to production companies with turnovers in excess of £25m, while just 15% went to producers with annual revenues under £10m, despite these smaller companies making up more than half of all independent production companies in the UK.[19] To ensure that Channel 4 continues to boost the UK’s independent production sector and support economic growth across the creative industries, any new enhanced commissioning quotas should prioritise opportunities for the smallest independent producers. This could include quotas on the minimum share of Channel 4 commission spend going to smaller producers, and/or maximum limits on commissions going to ‘super-indies’ in the highest turnover brackets (who already dominate commissioning across the PSBs). This model would mirror the ’window of creative competition’ or ‘WoCC’ in place previously at the BBC: set shares of Channel 4 commissioning would be reserved for (a) SME indies, (b) the expanded independent production quota and (c) a ‘C4S’ in-house guarantee, with the remaining share open to competition between all independent producers, broadcasters studios and the new C4S.[20]
  6. The Media Bill should also expand Channel 4’s unique public service remit, as set out in Section 265(3) of the Communications Act 2003, in order to re-emphasise its founding principles and further distinguish its services from commercial multi-channel broadcasters and international streaming services.
  7. The Media Bill should refocus the Channel 4 remit to require more content in socially significant merit genres, serving minority audiences, and pioneering innovative, risk-taking formats. Channel 4 is widely regarded as the leading UK broadcaster for featuring minority voices, including those from otherwise marginalised communities and groups within society. This essential contribution to UK public service media should be reaffirmed as a guiding tenet of Channel 4’s remit, inviting even greater investment in the universality and representativeness of its content. At the same time, Channel 4’s provision of educational and older children’s content on its TV channels has declined dramatically following successive reductions in its licenced quotas. In 2019, just 9% of Channel 4’s total content spend went to original education content.[21] Channel 4 has also withdrawn from providing children’s news following the easing of commercial PSB quotas in 2003. As currently proposed in the Media Bill, the abolition of Section 296 of the Communications Act 2003 (concerning quotas for Channel 4 schools programming) combined with the narrower public service remit for television (which does not specify educational content) will serve only to worsen the sector-wide devaluation of educational programming for UK audiences.
  8. The Media Bill should also introduce an obligation within Channel 4’s remit for reaching and appealing to younger audiences with innovative, UK-made public service content. Channel 4 has established a strong position in attracting younger audiences to its services. Channel 4 is the only PSB to have a higher viewing share amongst the 16-34 age group than its viewing share of all audiences (15.0% vs. 10.3%), and its news programming has more younger viewers as a proportion of its total audience than all other PSB news services.[22] However, younger audiences are also shifting their media consumption away from traditional broadcasting more quickly than any other group. 70% of 16-34s’ average daily viewing is comprised of non-broadcast media, such as streaming, online video and gaming, compared to just 41% for all adults, and this figure has risen year on year.[23] Younger audiences’ ‘loyalty’ to PSBs is more tenuous than with older generations. Still, research for Ofcom nonetheless indicates that 16-34s distinguish PSB as far more socially and culturally beneficial than SVoDs for creating shared experiences, producing unique content and offering programmes that reflect and represent the UK.[24]
  9. Clause 24 of the Media Bill creates a new statutory duty on Channel 4 Corporation to ensure its financial stability over the long term, as originally proposed in the DCMS White Paper. We have no objections to this measure in principle; however, it is unclear how the draft provisions promise to be more effective than C4C’s existing corporate governance and financial reporting obligations. We would welcome further clarification from the government in this regard, specifying that these measures support greater public accountability and will avoid the risk of undue politicisation of Channel 4’s financial reporting.
  10. The government’s January 2023 press release reversing its privatisation plans referenced supporting Channel 4 with “greater access to capital”. These measures are notably absent from the Media Bill, and we are concerned that – should the publisher-broadcaster model be abolished – Channel 4 will lack the financial resources necessary to maximise new commercial opportunities while sustaining the provision of its core public service content and programming. As with the Media Bill’s revisions to the public service television remit, the proposals relating to Channel 4 as currently drafted risk undermining the broadcaster’s ability to fulfil its over-arching public service aims. Such measures could prove damaging to the public value Channel 4 has persistently created for British audiences and the UK creative industries.


General issues

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

  1. The Media Bill includes a range of provisions giving new powers to the Secretary of State in relation to broadcasting regulations and technical provisions. In keeping with essential principles of media independence and public accountability, we believe that any and all such powers (both new and existing) should be subjected to much closer scrutiny, oversight and formal deliberation by Parliament and respective Committees.
  2. We also have concerns about the new powers given to the Secretary of State relating specifically to public service broadcasting and the content ‘catch-up’ period. Subsection 8A of Clause 1 requires that PSBs’ on-demand content must be available for a minimum of 30 days in order to qualify for fulfilment of the public service remit. Subsection 8B of Clause 1 further empowers the Secretary of State to modify this time period “if either or both of audience expectations and industry practices were to change”.[25] While the purpose and function of this power is appropriate, we suggest that the Secretary of State should be required within the legislation to consult with Ofcom (on the basis of research and public engagement into changes in such audience expectations and industry practices) to provide evidence and justification for modifying this ‘catch-up period’. This would ensure that the power of the Secretary of State to change this provision is proportionate to the public interest in ensuring that the availability of PSB ‘catch-up’ content reflects the needs, interests and views of audiences themselves.


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

  1. As we have noted throughout this submission, our primary concern with the draft Media Bill is that its changes to UK broadcasting legislation risk producing policy outcomes that are counter to widely recognised principles of PSB and the interests of audiences. Regardless of the contents of the revised public service remit or the associated regulations implemented by the Media Bill, Ofcom should be given greater responsibility for qualitatively monitoring and evaluating the public value of PSB in the UK, both in terms of individual broadcasters’ contributions and the desired social and cultural benefits they are tasked with creating. A case in point concerns Ofcom’s relative capability to mediate disputes over impartiality, with criticisms mounting that breaches – e.g., GB News’s airing of conspiracy theories about COVID-19 without adequate challenge or context – are not being regulated satisfactorily.[26]
  2. Ofcom should be required to review and report on the fulfilment of PSB principles on a continual basis, rather than periodically, and be empowered to do so through meaningful engagement with the public. Alongside evaluating the fulfilment of PSB remits, monitoring compliance and reporting audience data, these reviews should facilitate an on-going public dialogue about the purposes and values of PSB, and enable direct democratic public participation in the future definition and strategy of UK PSB.
  3. In addition to revisions and discussions on the Bill’s content as explored above, we see the Media Bill as a crucial opportunity to enhance the role of the public within the regulatory processes and strategic decision-making that will shape the future of UK PSB. The democratic value of PSB is not limited solely to the provision of news content and public affairs programming, as vital as these genres are for facilitating citizenship and civic understanding. PSBs also creates a unique civic value through serving as independent and accountable public institutions whose content, services and management are all intimately tied with public decision-making processes. The unique governance structures and funding models of the UK’s PSB ecology tethers their media operations directly to a collective sense of public ownership and a common civic purpose. As pay-TV providers and international streaming companies continue to expand their commercial models around content personalisation, subscription packages and curated recommendations, PSBs will need to foster a more open, inclusive culture — including cultivating audiences’ participation in the commissioning and production of public service content.[27]
  4. The Media Bill also represents an important moment for parliamentary and public debate about wider issues concerning the evolving domestic and international broadcasting ecology. Cuts to public funding, falling advertising revenues and subsidy scheme closures, such as the Young Audiences Content Fund, are exposing the growing ‘market gaps’ in socially and culturally significant genres, such as children’s programming.[28] Inflationary production costs in areas like high-end drama and documentaries, driven by global streaming platforms, further threaten to price out UK investment in some of the most popular and competitive markets. The on-going decline of local journalism, driven by commercial newspaper consolidation and repurposing by social media platforms, risks accelerating the growth in ‘news deserts’ across the UK.[29] BBC local radio closures would further compound these difficulties.
  5. The future of the BBC, its Royal Charter and its licence fee funding model, will all have a decisive impact on the shape, scale and purpose of PSB as a key driver for the creative industries. The long awaited ‘mid-term’ review of BBC governance and regulation, and its noticeably private deliberations, must not set a precedent for how the government will organise those forthcoming debates. Questions over government appointments, BBC independence and politicisation have further strained public perceptions of the BBC’s accountability. Parliament should take the lead in reforming those processes to better fulfil public expectations of good governance.

Contact information

Dr Tom Chivers

Professor Stuart Allan


School of Journalism, Media and Culture, Cardiff University






Appendix 1. Comparison of public service remit between Communications Act 2003 and Media Bill 2023


Communications Act 2003 (Section 264)

Media Bill 2023 (Clause 1)


Subsection (4) “the purposes of public service television are”:

(a) “…programmes dealing with a wide range of subject matters”

(c) “…properly balanced … for meeting the needs and satisfying the interests of the available audiences”

(d) “…maintain high general standards”, (i to iii) content, quality of programme making, professional skill and editorial integrity


“OFCOM must have regard to the desirability of those purposes being fulfilled in a manner which is compatible with (6)”

Subsection (4) “the public service remit is fulfilled where” PSBs “make available a broad range of audiovisual content”:

(a) “in a manner which … [is] likely to meet the needs and satisfy the interests of as many different audiences as practicable”

(b) “… as regards the nature of the audiovisual content made available and the subject-matters covered by it”

Quality, skill etc. removed

“range of audiovisual content includes material satisfying the requirements in (5)”

‘Reithian values’

(6a) Services taken together “comprise a public service for the dissemination of information and for the provision of education and entertainment

Education and entertainment removed

Cultural content

(6b) “that cultural activity in the United Kingdom, and its diversity, are reflected, supported and stimulated by the representation in those services (taken together) of drama, comedy and music, by the inclusion of feature films in those services and by the treatment of other visual and performing arts

Drama, comedy, music and arts removed

News and current affairs

(6c) “that those services (taken together) provide, to the extent that is appropriate for facilitating civic understanding and fair and well-informed debate on news and current affairs, a comprehensive and authoritative coverage of news and current affairs in, and in the different parts of, the United Kingdom and from around the world;”

(5a) “that the audiovisual content made available by the public service broadcasters (taken together) provides…” as before

Sporting and leisure

(6d) services taken together “satisfy a wide range of different sporting and other leisure interests

Sporting and leisure interests removed


(6e) “a suitable quantity and range of programmes on educational matters, of programmes of an educational nature and of other programmes of educative value

Educational programming removed

Science, religion, specialist interests

(6f) “a suitable quantity and range of programmes dealing with each of the following, science, religion and other beliefs, social issues, matters of international significance or interest and matters of specialist interest


(6g) news and information, history of different religions and other beliefs, acts of worship/ceremonies/practices

Science, religion, specialist interests etc. removed

Children and young people

(6h) “a suitable quantity and range of high quality and original programmes for children and young people”

(5c) “an appropriate range and quantity of audiovisual content, contained in original productions, that—

(i) reflects the lives and concerns of children and young people in the United Kingdom, and

(ii) helps them to understand the world around them

Reflecting UK communities

(6i) “include what appears to OFCOM to be a sufficient quantity of programmes that reflect the lives and concerns of different communities and cultural interests and traditions within the United Kingdom, and locally in different parts of the United Kingdom”

(5b) as before (substitute ‘audiovisual content’) plus

(ii) “without prejudice to the generality of sub-paragraph (i), is in, or mainly in, a recognised regional or minority language”

Independent productions

(6j) “include what appears to OFCOM to be an appropriate range and proportion of programmes made outside the M25 area”

(5d) services taken together include

(i) an appropriate range of independent productions with an appropriate combined duration,

(ii) an appropriate range of original productions with an appropriate combined duration, and

(iii) M25 as before




[1] Chivers, T and Allan, S. (2022) What is the Public Value of Public Service Broadcasting? Cardiff University and Creative Industries PEC.

[2] Ofcom (2022) Media Nations: UK 2022 report.

[3] Communications Act 2003, Section 264.

[4] Ofcom (2020) Public Service Broadcasting: Omnibus survey findings.

[5] DCMS (2022) Up Next: The Government’s vision for the broadcasting sector. CP 671.

[6] Chivers, T and Allan, S. (2022) What is the Public Value of Public Service Broadcasting? Cardiff University and Creative Industries PEC.

[7] Carter, C. and Steemers, J. (2023) Speaking with One Voice: The Future of UK Children’s PSB Provision and Policymaking, Cardiff University and Creative Industries PEC.

[8] Commons DCMS Committee (2021) The future of public service broadcasting. HC 156, pg. 10-11.

[9] Jigsaw and Ofcom (2020) The impact of lockdown on audiences’ relationship with PSB.

[10] For RTSS UI features like voice-activated searches, the television prominence framework should adopt parts of the language already used in the Media Bill’s provisions relating to the regulation of spoken command radio selection services (Clause 42, 362BH).

[11] Ofcom (2022) Media Nations: UK 2022 Report, pg. 5 & 92.

[12] Ofcom (2022) Online Nation: 2022 UK Report, pg. 13.

[13] Chivers and Allan (2021) Written evidence to DCMS consultation on a change of ownership of Channel 4 Television Corporation; ibid. (2023) Re-imagining Channel 4’s future, Creative PEC.

[14] Oliver & Ohlbaum (2022) Pact UK Television Production Census, p. 10; Ofcom (2020) The role of PSBs in the UK TV production sector, p. 11.

[15] Channel 4 (2021) Channel 4 response to DCMS consultation, September 2021.

[16] Oliver & Ohlbaum (2021) Channel 4’s impact on the UK’s international competitive and global profile, pg. 58.

[17] EY (2021) Channel 4’s contribution to the UK.

[18] DCMS (2023) Press release: Channel 4 to remain publicly owned with reforms to boost its sustainability and commercial freedom. 5 January 2023.

[19] Oliver & Ohlbaum (2022) Pact UK Television Production Census, p. 18.

[20] We suggest that qualification as an ‘SME indy’ under this proposed Channel 4 quota should be limited to Small and Micro enterprises, as defined in the Companies Act 2006. This would encompass companies with turnovers less than or equal to £10m, representing 52% of UK independent production companies.

[21] Channel 4 (2021) Annual Report 2021, p. 105.

[22] ibid, p. 97-99.

[23] Ofcom (2022) Media Nations 2022: UK Report, p. 5.

[24] Jigsaw and Ofcom (2020) An exploration of people's relationship with PSB, p. 39-44.

[25] DCMS (2023) Memorandum from DCMS to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, pg. 5.

[26] Ofcom (2023) Ofcom finds GB News in breach of broadcasting rules for a second time

[27] D’Arma, A, Raats, T. and Steemers, J. (2021) Public Service Media in the age of SVoDs: A comparative study of PSM strategic responses in Flanders, Italy and the UK, Media Culture & Society 43(4):682-700; Future of TV Inquiry (2016) A report on the future of public service television in the UK in the 21st century, pg. 30.

[28] Carter, C., Steemers, J. and Messenger-Davies, M. (2021) Why children’s news matters: The case of CBBC Newsround in the UK, in European Journal of Communication.

[29] Cairncross, F. (2019) The Cairncross Review: A sustainable future for journalism; Plum Consulting (2020) Research into recent press sector dynamics.