Content is king

We all know that ‘content is king’. When you have the multitude of choices we now have for viewing on television it is the quality of the programme, the relevance to your own life and culture that keeps you viewing.

We are a diverse nation and need to reflect that in the choice of programmes we provide. But diversity of programming only comes with investment. ‘Public Service Broadcasting refers to TV programmes that are broadcast for the public benefit rather than for purely commercial purposes.’ according to OfCOM.

The logic follows that if PBS programmes are to be made than they must be subsidised, the decision to make them can not be a purely commercial one. And that commercial companies (Ch3/5) need encouragement and budgets to allow for a quality of production that will attract viewers.

Press reports for a long time now keep describing Channel’s 3 and 5 as ‘embattled’. The Euro crisis, new technologies, the bank crisis all make their advertising revenue base more like the shifting sands of a mirage than the financial system planners like to have.

They’ve been cutting costs madly to stay where they are financially. Our members have taken the brunt of that cost cutting.

The acception, of course, to profits down is BSkyB whose reported net profits in 2010 was £878 on an income of £1,173 up from 2009’s figures of before tax profit of £456 and net profit of £259.

So the satellite broadcasting, broadband and telephony service companies are making good money. We can all understand why News Corporation wanted a greater share.

BSkyB is the broadcaster that is exempt from European Union broadcasting requirement to make TV programmes. So the company with the most money has little or no PBS responsiblity or programming.

An interesting statistic reported in the Guardian in October 2011 is that the average customer spend for Sky is £535 a year. Our licence fees are £145.50. So we pay, with our licence fees, the PBS to make programmes and then pay up to 3.5 times that to Sky to watch them.

The jobs and the quality for money are in that licence fee. Sky is sending it’s profits to organisations such as News Corporation, who are using it to lobby politicians the ensure that they have the regulatory environment that continues those profits.

We need quality Public Service programmes. We need good documentaries. We need good news programmes, international, national and local.

A levy on ‘pay television’ could fund those fundamental services that have made some of the best programmes in the world. We need for ITV to continue to be a strong player in providing PSB content and need a regulatory system that supports them.

We especially need for strong PSB providers in the nations and regions.

BECTU supports the idea that a one per cent levy on ‘pay television’ which would yield a significant amount of money that can be used to support PBS programming. Twenty-two out of twenty-seven European Union members have a levy system. The UK is one of only five that does not.

Categories: Broadcasting

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