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Netflix threat to public service broadcasters to be scrutinised by government

Are public service broadcasters doing enough to survive to global rise of VOD

The House of Lords Communications Committee is calling for evidence into the state of UK public service broadcasting, asking if they have done enough to adapt to the rise of video streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.

The inquiry is being put in place to explore the place of public service broadcasters in a global environment where big-budget, video on demand companies can offer more content for reduced consumer fees. It notes that Netflix’s £5.99 a month offering and Amazon's Prime video bundling greatly undercut the TV license.

Outlining the issue, the inquiry asks how serious the threat from these digital media companies is to UK public service broadcasters. It will also ask whether the broadcasters are, in their current shape, “worth saving” and wondered “what form they could take in future”.

In particular, it is courting industry wisdom on whether it should alter the funding of PBSs or regulate the digital giants.

Lord Gilbert of Panteg, chairman of the committee, said: “Public service broadcasters must fulfill a range of obligations, including on the volume and type of adverts they show, programming in specific genres, the way they commission content, the audiences they serve and the watershed.

“On-demand services do not have these obligations and it has been suggested that these big budget productions are pricing public service broadcasters out of the market by inflating production costs. The Committee will investigate if the concept of public service broadcasting retains some value, what form it should take in future and how it could be financially viable.”

The report outlines that conventional TV viewing fell by 5% in 2018 and conventional TV viewing by under-25s has halved since 2010.

The Committee has invited written evidence from all interested parties by Friday, 26 April 2019. The submission form is available here.

Below are the addressable questions:

1. How can commercial public service broadcasters fund original UK productions at a time of declining advertising revenues?

2. Are the obligations currently placed on public service broadcasters appropriate?

Should there be further regulation of on-demand services?

3. Does public service broadcasting do enough to reflect and serve the demographics of the UK?

4. Have public service broadcasters responded adequately to market changes?

Last week, The Drum touched down in Nottingham to learn how the UK’s commercial TV providers are grouping together to bring marketing spend back into the TV environment. Interviewees acknowledged the decline of linear viewing but noted an increase in consumer choice and ease with video-on-demand technology.

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