Information requested from public service broadcasters

24 February 2005

Briefing note on information request to broadcasters


Ofcom’s review of public service television broadcasting (PSB)was launched by Stephen Carter at the RTS Cambridge Convention at theend of September 2003. The review is due to be completed in the lateautumn of 2004.


The Communications Act (clause 264(3)) requires Ofcom to “carryout a review of the extent to which the public service broadcasters [BBC,ITV, Channel 4, S4C and Five] have [...] provided relevant televisionservices which (taking them all together over the period as a whole)fulfil the purposes of public service television broadcasting in theUnited Kingdom”. The review should be conducted “with a viewto maintaining and strengthening the quality” of PSB in the UK.

As part of the review, Ofcom needs to consider “the costs to personsproviding relevant television services of the fulfilment of the purposesof public service television broadcasting”, as well as “thesources of income available to each of them for meeting those costs” (clause264(7) of the Act).

Overall approach

The terms of reference document published by Ofcom (available on itsweb site) sets out four building blocks in the overall approach:

  • Analysis. This will include statistical analysis of the deliveryof PSB over the last five years, and will involve the development ofscenarios for the future development of the broadcasting sector andthe implications for PSB
  • New research. A number of substantial new researchprojects will be conducted to underpin the analysis. These will includea major audienceresearchstudy to assess viewers’ perceptions and preferences. The cost-benefitswork that the ITC has developed over the last two years will also bebuilt on and developed further as appropriate to cover all public servicebroadcasters
  • Expert advice. The review will draw on the experience ofexternal advisers to complement the involvement of Ofcom’s mainBoard and Content Board. They will cover areas such as economic analysis,audience research,and specific editorial and content issues
  • Consultation. Detailed publicconsultations are built into the project plan, including two formalconsultation stages as well as a seriesof seminars and discussion groups.

Process and timetable

The review has been divided into three phases, with the two formal consultationscoming at the end of Phases One and Two:

  • Phase One: The Current Position (October 2003 - Spring 2004)
  • PhaseTwo: Prospects for the Future (Spring 2004 - Summer 2004)
  • Phase Three:Proposals and Recommendations (Summer 2004 - late Autumn 2004).

Phase One

Phase One will include a detailed, data-intensive review of PSB, asit is currently provided, in the context of the overall broadcastingsector. The main elements of this part of the review are:

  • audience research into what viewers believe the main aimsand objectives of PSB should be
  • a statistical analysis of the deliveryof PSB over the last five years, covering volume of output in differentgenres, expenditure on programming,ratings and audience perceptions of programmes, etc.
  • expert assessment,both from industry opinion-formers and from specialist interest groups(e.g. minority ethnic groups and disabled people),on particular aspects of PSB.

Framework for measuring the delivery of PSB

To provide a framework for the audience research and statistical analysisreferred to above, we have identified four “core purposes” ofPSB, based on the purposes set out in clause 264 of the CommunicationsAct. These are:

  • Range and balance. This focuses on the programme schedules:range of different types of programming (particularly in peak), balancedinvestment, etc
  • Diversity. This focuses on programming targeted atdifferent audience types, representation of different viewpoints, etc
  • Quality.This focuses on achieving excellence in programming, including highproduction values, originality and innovation, ambition and risk-taking,etc
  • Social values. This covers the wider benefits of television to society,including cultural identity (e.g. reflection of different parts ofthe UK), informed democracy (e.g. impartial news and current affairs)andeducated citizens (including educational and children’s programming,as well as informative factual programming).
    Within each of these core purposes, we have specified a series of morespecific objectives, as set out in the following chart:

link to accessible version of this diagram

The purpose of the statistical analysis is to help us to “tella story” about how well PSB is being delivered. The crucial pointis that this is not intended to be a purely mechanical number-crunchingexercise, but rather to draw on a spectrum of information, ranging fromthe purely quantitative (e.g. hours of output) to the highly qualitative(e.g. audience perceptions, interviews with opinion-formers).

The indicators derived from the statistical analysis should be thoughtof as pieces of evidence in constructing this story. They will provideonly part of the final story and will be complemented with qualitativeassessment where necessary. This is reflected in our information requestto broadcasters.

Information Request To Public Service Broadcasters

In order to help us to examine the extent to which the core purposesof PSB have been fulfilled, we are asking each public service broadcasterto provide data on each of their public service channels.

Our request consists of two sets of information:

  • First, we would like each broadcaster to provide data – coveringthe last five years (i.e. calendar years 1998-2002) – on readilyquantifiable measures such as the volume of, and expenditure on, differenttypes of programming, and the costs and revenues associated with eachchannel. This data is specified in a template, in the form of an Excelspreadsheet, to be returned to Ofcom
  • Second, we would like each broadcasterto provide supplementary information on its contribution to the fulfilmentof each of the core purposesof PSB. This information will generally be more qualitative in nature, reflectingthe fact that PSB cannot be measured purely in terms of volume andvaluestatistics, but we would also be interested in any additional quantitativeanalysis that could be provided in support of any of the issues covered.For example, this analysis could address more intangible elements suchas innovation, creativity, ambition and risk-taking.
    Ofcom will supplement the broadcasters’ returns with our own analysisof detailed viewing data from BARB. We will also use our main audienceresearch study to ask respondents about their perceptions of differenttypes of PSB programming. Ofcom will also conduct more detailed analysisof certain key PSB genres (likely to include news, regional, children’s,factual and drama programming).

We would like broadcasters to provide data separately for each of thefollowing public service channels for each of the last five calendaryears (1998-2002):

  • BBC. Volume, Value, P&L and Extra data separately forBBC 1 and BBC 2 for each year. Volume and Value data separately foreachdigital channel (BBC 3/Choice, BBC 4/Knowledge, News 24, CBBC and Cbeebies)for each year. P&L and Extra data combined for the digital channelsfor each year, plus data for each digital channel separately in 2002.NB Night-time transmissions of News 24 should be excluded from theBBC 1 data.
  • ITV. Volume, Value, P&L and Extra data for ITV1 (aggregateof all licensees and the Network Centre)
  • Channel 4, S4C and Five. Volume,Value, P&L and Extra data forthe core PSB channels (including S4C Digital) for each year.
    It is important to be clear about the form of the data we need to collecton those channels which include programmes made for broadcast in theregions (“regional programming”) in addition to their networkschedules, i.e. BBC 1, BBC 2 and ITV1. We would like Volume and Valuedata separately for the network schedule (which we define as the Londonschedule excluding regional programming) and for regional programmingin each region. The P&L data should cover costs and revenues associatedwith all programming on each channel in aggregate, i.e. the networkschedule plus the sum of regional programming in each region. The Extrasheetis a mixture of different types of data; we describe the data we wouldlike in the relevant parts of this sheet.

Supplementary information

In addition to completing the data template, we would like each broadcasterto describe, and provide further evidence of, how it has contributedto the fulfilment of the core purposes of PSB, using our framework asa guide. For each purpose, this should include a commentary that highlightskey trends in the data provided in the template, as well as any otherrelevant information and analysis. Specific issues for each core purposeare discussed below.

We would also like broadcasters to provide information on their interactiveservices, covering expenditure on these services and audience data. Theservices should be broken down into relevant categories, e.g. ongoingtext services, ongoing video services (e.g. news loops), one-off textservices (e.g. interactive voting) and one-off video services (e.g. sportsevents).

Range and balance

Data in the template allows analysis of the range of genres and schedulingpatterns, based on BARB genre definitions, and of the balance of investmentacross genres. We have also asked for data to cover certain genres, suchas drama and factual, in more detail.

We would, however, like broadcasters to provide more detailed evidenceof their range of programming, particularly in peak time, that is notlimited to genre analysis. For example, this should refer to differenttypes of programming that BARB’s genre definitions do not defineindividually.


While it would probably be impossible to provide a definition of qualityprogramming that is both comprehensive and incontrovertible, we haveidentified certain aspects of quality that we can track. This includesinformation on individual landmark programmes and analysis of new/returningseries (as a proxy for originality and innovation). We will also examinethe production values of different types of programming (these are capturedin the data template).

We would welcome your views on the significance of these aspects, andany additional information that you consider demonstrates commitmentto aspects of quality programming, e.g. through working with or nurturingnew talent in order to encourage innovation or ambition. We would alsolike you to discuss how you assess quality programming, and provide relevantevidence of quality, e.g. positive critical reviews or awards.


Data from the template and from Ofcom’s analysis of viewing patternswill provide evidence of diversity of programme sources (by type andlocation of production company), viewing by socio-demographic groups,viewing of multicultural programmes, and provision of subtitling, signingand audio description.

We would welcome any additional evidence you consider important in demonstratingthe extent to which different communities are being represented and theirtastes met. This should aim to cover communities defined both by standardmeasures such as socio-demographic group (age, gender, social class,ethnicity, etc.) or region, and by less standard measures such as nicheinterest groups. The evidence should include any surveys that you haveconducted into the representation of different groups, and the extentto which these groups feel their needs are met (both by programming targetedat them and by television in general).

Social values

This is the area in which the data template is likely to be least informative,and for which supplementary information would be most helpful. Whilebroadcasters’ responses should be guided by the objectives listedin the chart above, we would particularly welcome information in thefollowing areas:

Informed democracy

  • Evidence of audience appreciation or impact of relevant news,current affairs and other programmes and the manner in which they aredelivered(e.g. news programmes tailored to specific audience groups)
  • Informationon resources (e.g. international bureaux) and external sources of news
  • Informationon major stories that have been individually investigated and “broken” innews and current affairs programmes
  • Evidence of trends over the past10 years in amounts of international coverage in news, current affairsand serious factual programmes
  • Information on social action programmesand campaigns: descriptions of significant individual campaigns, investmentlevels, measures ofimpact (number of calls to help lines, etc.)
  • Investment in online news servicesand usage data (by key demographic groups)

Educated citizens

  • Educative elements of programmes that are not defined asbeing specifically educational
  • Educational initiatives and theirsupport material: description of initiatives, forms of support andinvestment levels
  • Investment in online educational services and usagedata (by key demographic groups)

Cultural identity

  • “Water cooler moments”: description ofkey programmes/events and evidence of their impact in bringing thenation, or significant communities,together (high ratings, audience appreciation indices, volume of pressreports, etc.)
  • Development of new talent (e.g. writers, performers, producers):description of initiatives and investment levels
  • Support for arts andheritage: description of initiatives, investment levels and measuresof impact. There should be a focus on areas specificallyreferred to in the Communications Act, e.g. music, film and comedy.This should include measures such as transmission of awards ceremonies, promotionof festivals, magazine programmes (e.g. Film 2003) and support foreducation/trainingcourses (e.g. National Film and Television School).