The Media in Figures: The nations and regions, Ofcom review

A REVIEW of public service broadcasting – by the broadcasting regulators, Ofcom – has concluded that, ‘overall, there are very different sets of challenges in each nation of the UK’…

Describes Ofcom: “PSB is currently provided across the UK by a number of key institutions: the BBC, Channel 4 Corporation (C4C), the Channel 3 licensees – ITV, STV and UTV – and Channel 5. BBC Alba and S4C provide Gaelic and Welsh-language channels.

“All BBC services are PSB, only the main channels of the others are PSB. In return for providing PSB services, the institutions receive certain benefits, predominantly access to spectrum (the valuable radiowaves that support wireless communication) to broadcast their services; prominence on electronic programme guides on television (EPGs); and in the BBC’s case, the licence fee.”

And it continues:

England – network production in London has fallen, and now makes up less than 50 per cent of first-run network output, because production has moved out of London to the devolved nations and other English regions. The only English regions not to benefit have been the Midlands and the East of England are the exception, which have experienced the most substantial decline in the proportion of network output and spend, to 1.6 per cent of first-run expenditure.

England has seen one of the most substantial declines (31 per cent) in regional programming, and despite increased production in the north of England, one in five people say they feel negatively portrayed, compared to 11 per cent of people in England when thinking about the portrayal of England as a whole.

Northern Ireland – although production in the devolved nations as a whole has risen, production in Northern Ireland remains low, at less than one per cent of network output. Audiences in Northern Ireland are also the most likely to feel under-represented (42 per cent of respondents) and negatively portrayed (26 per cent of respondents), compared to respondents in the other nations and English regions.

Scotland – one of the main beneficiaries of the shift in production out of London and the only nation to see an increase in spend on nations programming, up by 14 per cent since 2008. Nevertheless, higher proportions of audiences here (21 per cent) feel negatively portrayed, compared to respondents in most other areas of the UK.

Wales – also a beneficiary from increased production out of London, but unlike Scotland it has seen a substantial decline (of 30 per cent) in programming for Wales. Respondents to our consultation suggested that other issues in Wales were the lack of certainty about funding for S4C, and an over-reliance on the BBC and ITV for news about Wales, given the comparative weakness of the press in Wales.

And Ofcom adds: “The nations and their regions are the areas where there is the largest gap between the public expectation of PSB and the operations of the PSBs.

“Despite the 2013/14 Channel 3 relicensing process, which resulted in better-focused English regions and a resolution of the ITV Border area across national boundaries, respondents from the UK nations and their regions emphasised that there remains a perceived deficit in programming designed for specific parts of the UK.”

Source: Public Service Broadcasting in the Internet Age (Ofcom’s Third Review of Public Service Broadcasting). Read it here. Published July 2 2015.