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BBC TV Broadcasting

UK Public service broadcasters face least favourable system for retransmission fees research claims


By Stephen Lepitak, -

October 20, 2011 | 2 min read

UK public service broadcasters such as the BBC face the least favourable system of TV retransmission fees in the developed world an independent report has claimed.

The ‘PSB Network Platform Re-Transmission And Access Charges In The UK: The Case For Change’ report by media analyst Oliver and Ohlbaum has found that public service broadcasters in the UK pay for the content that is provided to broadcasters without any regard to value as opposed to the broadcasters elsewhere being paid by the platform operators for such content.

Also highlighted in the report is that if the UK were to adopt a US system of payment, it would generate up to £96m more to spend on content, but it also warns that any reform to the system in the IK would divert away from widespread content investment.

Report author Mark Oliver, chief executive of Oliver and Ohlbaum Associates, said: "The UK clearly has the least favourable system for free-to-air broadcaster retransmission in the developed world.

"UK PSB broadcasters have an obligation (implicit and sometimes explicit) to be available to all TV households and therefore cannot in practice withdraw their services from any major TV platform. This gives platform providers significant leverage in commercial negotiations. The current regime for setting access fees to platforms such as Sky does not adequately address this imbalance in leverage between platforms and PSB channels."

John Tate, director of policy and strategy for the BBC, said: "These charges were agreed many years ago in order to help satellite broadcasters justify the investment they needed to build their platform. The question now is whether or not this money is still flowing in the right direction.

"If we did not have to pay Sky we would save £50m over the remainder of the licence fee period and that could go back into programme making – it would for example cover all the costs that we are currently planning to take out of local radio and BBC Four combined."

Five alternative charging systems were analysed by the report, which concluded that platform operators carrying content without a levy of fee was the simplest solution, and also identified that a more complex regime would create more investment in programming.

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