Ofcom announces measures to help public broadcasters face “unprecedented pressure” of competition from streaming services and global media giants.

Maintaining the visibility of high-quality PSB content has long been a challenge, with the ever-growing choice and variety of television channels. But now with the development of faster internet speeds and the rise of global on-demand services, public broadcasters are having to rapidly adapt to new and extremely well-funded competition.

With this in mind, the UK regulator Ofcom has set out a series of measures to support the long-term prominence of PSB content and “safeguard its benefits for future generations”.

The measures include: rules to ensure PSB TV channels are easy to find; recommending rules to improve the visibility of PSB on internet-connected devices; backing commitments by broadcasters to focus on “high quality children’s programmes”; and launching a national forum – with viewers, the media industry and government – to discuss the future of PSB on TV and online.

As it stands, Ofcom cannot enforce ‘prominence’ rules online. These new measures will therefore require the government to establish new rules to ensure viewing platforms make PSB content clearly visible.

In a joint statement, the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, S4C and STV welcomed the recommendations:

“As public service broadcasters we are committed to giving audiences the best British programmes and impartial and trusted news. Viewers say they value our content and want to be able to find it easily

 “These recommendations would ensure viewers can easily find public service broadcasting (PSB) content across a range of devices including smart TVs, set-top boxes and streaming sticks, and bring the rules up to date for the digital age.”

When editorially independent, public media helps to underpin effective democracy by providing trusted information to audiences and by holding power to account. But its ability to entertain and unite viewers and listeners with shared experiences, is also central to this role.

A flexible framework that allows public broadcasters to fulfil their role while keeping pace with rapid technology development, changes in viewing habits and online competitors, is therefore seen as essential to maintaining the presence of PSB content in the digital space.

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