The UK communications regulator Ofcom has published phase 2 of its review of public service broadcasting (PSB) in the UK looking at PSB in the digital age. Ofcom’s proposed framework for PSB in the digital age includes: the BBC remaining the cornerstone of PSB broadcasting, still funded by a licence fee; ensuring the BBC does not become the only serious PSB provider by maintaining the plurality of recipients of public funding for PSB; ensuring Channel 4 remains as primarily a not-for-profit provider of innovative and diverse programmes for its target audience group, whilst allowing it to pursue alliances with other organisations and consider developing a suite of free to air digital channels; maitaining a sustainable level of PSB obligations on ITV1, focusing the channel on a set of central PSB components, before and after switchover; a new approach to programming for the nations and regions: regional production and, if possible, regional news on ITV, a transfer of some non-news regional obligations to the BBC by reducing ITV1’s non-news obligations to 1.5hours a week in 2005, and the use of digital opportunities to create a new tier of more local services; increased investment in original UK programming on Five; and the introduction of a new provider, the Public Service Publisher (PSP), which would not be a TV channel in the traditional sense but would be tasked with providing PSB across a miriad of new digital technologies and distribution systems to meet audience needs in the digital age and securely funded from either an enhanced licence fee model, tax revenues, or a tax on the turnover of broadcasters. Ofcom is recommending that the PSB opperate as a commissioning and publishing body. New operators and current broadcaster such as ITV, Channel 4, Five would be allowed to bid to opperate the PSP. Ofcom Also recommend that the next BBC Royal Charter should run for ten years, until December 2016, and include a mid-charter review in 2011 to co-inside with Ofcom’s next PSB review. At this time the BBC would also be asked to report on any case for limited subscription services to fund future expansion. In relation to Channel 4 Ofcom also suggest that post switchover should commercial market forces make it difficult for Channel 4 to maintain PSB levels, that the case for transfering income-generating assets from the BBC to Channel 4 could be explored. Phase 2 of this review follows on from Phase 1 and comments received will be used to inform phase 3 of the review and Ofcom’s final report. Comments on Phase 2 are requested by 24 November 2004.
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