The prospects for television news in a fully digital era are a central element in any consideration of the future of public service broadcasting (PSB).
News is regarded by viewers as the most important of all the PSB genres, and television remains by far the most used source of news for UK citizens. The role of news and information as part of the democratic process is long established, and its status is specifically underpinned in the Communications Act 2003.
This report, New News, Future News, is one of a series of Ofcom studies focussing on individual topics identified in the PSB Review of 2004/05, and further discussed in the Digital PSB report of July 2006. The others are on the provision of children’s programmes and on the prospects for a Public Service Publisher. All three studies are linked to areas of particular PSB concern for the future, and set out a framework for policy consideration ahead of the next full PSB review. Other Ofcom work of relevance includes the review of Channel 4’s funding.
It has not been the role of this report to come up with solutions, and no policy recommendations are put forward. Instead, the report examines the environment in which television news currently operates, and assesses how that may change in future (after digital switch-over and, in 2014, the expiry of current Channel 3 and Channel 5 licences) . It identifies particular issues that will need to be addressed and suggests some specific questions that may need to be answered.
The report focuses on television, but sits in the wider context of other media including radio, newspapers and – ever more importantly – the internet. Ofcom’s proposals for the Future of Radio are contained in a separate on-going consultation.
In some key areas this report builds on and updates analysis carried out for an earlier study, New News Old News - produced in 2002 for the Independent Television Commission and the Broadcasting Standards Commission.
Four particular themes emerge. All four are linked to DSO and other changes taking place in the news environment, but they each present separate challenges and demand separate solutions. Those issues are:
The future of news – and television news in particular - is important for all citizens of an informed modern democracy. For this reason, Ofcom invites the views of stakeholders and other interested parties on all aspects of our analysis. Those views will be actively reviewed and considered by Ofcom before any firm policy approaches are established. A summary of all comments received will be published in the autumn of 2007.
Comments and observations should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Respondents should indicate any aspects of their response they wish to remain confidential. The closing date for responses is Friday 7 September 2007.
Addendum: on 12 July 2007 the following correction was made to the document:
Paragraph 3.15. The figure quoted for the cost of BBC News includes network television, radio and internet newsgathering, plus production costs of BBC News 24. It excludes production costs for other network news, and for UK nations and regions news.
Addendum: on 14 August 2007 the following correction was made to the document:
Correct data included in Figure 4.9 on page 55.