Ofcom has a duty to assess the designated public service broadcasters, taken together, in terms of their delivery of the public service purposes as set out in the Communications Act 2003. Ofcom's Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) Annual Report provides an evidence base for assessing the delivery of PSB on the main five PSB channels (BBC One, BBC Two, ITV1, Channel 4 and Channel 5), the BBC digital channels and S4C.
Spending on PSB network programming across the main five PSB channels and the BBC digital channels increased by 2% in real terms in 2010 to 2.9bn, although it was down by 12% since 2006. A similar trend was evident for first-run originated programmes, with expenditure flattening out in 2010 at 2.5bn, ending a five-year period of year-on-year declines; but over a four year period, spending was down by 12% in real terms.
2010 was a big year for sport (Vancouver Winter Olympics and the Fifa World Cup), and first-run spending on that genre rose by nearly 40% year on year; excluding this genre from first-run spending, investment in 2010 fell by 6% year on year.
Year-on-year real-term spend on first-run originations varied across channels. Expenditure rose proportionally furthest on the BBC's digital channels, up by 9% to 208m, while in absolute terms, BBC One's spending increase was greatest (up by 53m to 816m). The most pronounced proportionate reduction in first-run investment in 2010 was on Channel 5, down by 13% to 62m; in absolute terms, Channel 4 spending fell by the greatest amount, down by 32m, to 321m.
Over a four-year period first-run spend overall decreased by 12%; the reductions were most substantial on Channel 5 (down 49%) and Channel 4 (down by 25%). Significant reductions in first-run content spend were also made by ITV1 (down by 15%) and on BBC Two (down by 11%), whereas BBC One saw no change.
Spend on nations and regions output by the BBC and Channel 3 combined fell by 93m or 26%, from 359m in 2006 to 266 million in 2010. Channel 3 spend declined by 43% to 85m; for the BBC it fell by 30m or 14% over the same period, to 181m.
Viewing of television looks to have continued its long-term increase since 2006 (3.6 hours per day), rising from 3.8 hours in 2009 to 4.0 hours in 2010, according to BARB figures. Viewing of the main five PSB channels declined from 2006 to 2009 (2.5 hours per day to 2.3 hours per day), but in 2010 returned to 2006 levels at 2.5 hours.
Share of viewing of the main five PSB channels in multichannel homes declined from 58% in 2006 to 54% in 2010. This decline, however, was offset by an increased share of viewing among the PSBs' digital portfolio channels , from 11% in 2006 to 18% in 2010. As a result, the PSB channels saw their total combined shares increase from 69% to 72% in multichannel homes over the corresponding time period.
Audiences continue to value PSB programming. Ofcom's PSB Tracker shows that audience ratings of the importance of the PSB purposes and characteristics remained high in 2010, with some significant increases since 2007:
There were long-term increases in the perceived importance of Purpose 2: 'as a result of its programmes I've become more interested in particular subjects' (61% of UK adults rated it 7/8/9/10 out of 10 in 2007, versus 65% in 2010) and 'it shows interesting programmes about the history, science or the arts' (69% in 2007 to 73% in 2010).
Significant long-term increases were also recorded for the importance of a number of PSB characteristics: providing ' well-made high quality programmes' (84% of UK adults rated it 7/8/9/10 out of 10 in 2007, versus 87% in 2010), 'enough new UK made programmes' (72% to 76%) and 'programmes with new ideas and different approaches' (71% to 74%).
However, in 2010 opinion of the delivery of the PSB purposes and characteristics continued to vary.
The statements that ranked highest on delivery were related to Purpose 1: 70% of UK adults scored the delivery of 'its programmes help me understand what's going on in the world' highly, and 68% did so for 'its news programmes are trustworthy'. 'Well-made, high quality programmes' was the highest-ranking characteristic, at 64%. Over half of all audiences thought the PSB channels delivered well for most other purposes and characteristics.
There were lower scores related to Purpose 3 concerned with reflecting and strengthening our cultural identity. The results showed that only a third (33%) thought the PSB channels did well on 'portraying my region well to the rest of the UK' and providing 'programmes about my region or nation' (35%).
No significant changes were recorded year on year against perceived delivery of the PSB purposes and characteristics. However, a number of longer-term increases have been identified since 2007, most notably an increase in the PSB channels' contribution to 'stimulating knowledge and learning' as well as 'high quality, innovative' programming.
Against the trend of long-term declines in spend, no significant increases were recorded year on year or versus 2007 in audience opinion of the delivery of 'enough new programming made in the UK', with 45% of respondents scoring the PSB channels well on this.
There have been a number of significant changes in the ways audiences can consume media, which are likely to have affected attitudes towards TV and PSB delivery. For example, many people now have access to digital video recorders, as well as TV and internet on-demand services which provide more choice and control.