Ofcom PSB Review 5: “Deja Vu”

June 11, 2008

A reminder in case one was needed: these are my personal views.

Follow these links for Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

So after a brief musical interlude, a lie down, some biscuits and a spot of argy bargy let’s concentrate our minds and focus again on Ofcom’s review of Public Service Broadcasting.

Particularly as all suggestions, submissions and windy rhetoric has to be submitted by June 19th so I’d better hurry up.

Next I read the research called “The audience’s view on the future of Public Service Broadcasting” done by Mori. I read the executive summary and section 7 “The provision of Public Service Broadcasting in the future”.

I had a curious feeling of deja vu. I’ve read this kind of research before.

People are happy with the public service television they have at the moment. That’s logical because what they get is pretty good.

But there is an elephant in the room. They really like the idea of high end public service TV like documentaries and current affairs. They think it’s a social/public good. They want it to continue. But they don’t actually want to watch it – at least not in large enough numbers to make it commercially viable.

The report doesn’t really spell this out but you get hints of it in statements like:

“Some participants were concerned solely with their own viewing enjoyment and believed their personal needs would be better met by programmes that catered for the majority”.

So we have a paradox. People really want something to continue but are not prepared to put enough eyeballs across it. So the state has to intervene somehow? Or does it?

Younger audiences (who are using the internet more) are less interested in certain kinds of content on television. That may not mean they don’t want public service content.

The instinctive reaction of regulators is to react defensively and try and protect television.

But what if television isn’t the best medium for fulfilling certain public service purposes? What if the internet is actually better at say providing news and current affairs than TV? Does it matter if TV has a bit less PSB content if that gap is taken up by other mediums? What if the real problem is findability not content?

The research at the end of the document about willingness to pay (figure 7.2) is also being interpreted in a rather over generous way.

Overall, however, the main conclusion for the majority was that these choices were extremely hard and that people preferred to see an increase in costs to maintain current levels of provision.

You could equally argue that the research shows that roughly half of those surveyed did not want to pay more unless they were forced to.


One Response to “Ofcom PSB Review 5: “Deja Vu””

  1. […] Nick Reynolds questions Ofcom’s willingness-to-pay research. I totally agree with him. Ofcom’s […]

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