Public Service Broadcasting: Annual Report 2007
- This report is the first in an annual series. It aims to provide an evidence base for monitoring the delivery of public service broadcasting (PSB). The designated PSB broadcasters are the BBC, ITV1, GMTV, Channel 4, Five, S4C and Teletext.
- It is important to stress from the outset that this is a factual account of broadcast hours, viewing figures and audience opinions of the channels, rather than a strategic review of the PSB landscape. Its purpose is to enable both Ofcom and its stakeholders to gain a deeper understanding of the current position of PSB delivery, and how this has changed over the last five years. These annual reports will be particularly valuable in the run up to digital switchover.
- It will also provide important evidence for other related Ofcom projects such as the Future of News; Children’s Television; and the Channel 4 Financial Review.
- The report is an outcome of Ofcom’s 2004 PSB Review, which stated that Ofcom would develop a new approach to assessing the effectiveness of public service broadcasters, taken together, in delivering PSB Purposes and Characteristics (para 6.29, Ofcom PSB Review Phase 3: Competition for Quality)
- The PSB Purposes and Characteristics, which were developed during the 2004 PSB Review, are as follows:
Informing our understanding of the world - To inform ourselves and others and to increase our understanding of the world through news, information and analysis of current events and ideas
Stimulating knowledge and learning -To stimulate our interest in and knowledge of arts, science, history and other topics through content that is accessible and can encourage informal learning
Reflecting UK cultural identity - To reflect and strengthen our cultural identity through original programming at UK, national and regional level, on occasion bringing audiences together for shared experiences
Representing diversity and alternative viewpoints - To make us aware of different cultures and alternative viewpoints, through programmes that reflect the lives of other people and other communities, both within the UK and elsewhere
High quality - well-funded and well-produced
Original – new UK content rather than repeats or acquisitions
Innovative – breaking new ideas or re-inventing exciting approaches, rather than copying old ones
Challenging – making viewers think
Engaging – remaining accessible and attractive to viewers
Widely available – if content is publicly funded, a large majority of citizens need to be given the chance to watch it
Source: Ofcom PSB Review Phase 3: Competition for Quality
- Ofcom has a duty to assess the designated public service broadcasters, taken together, in terms of their delivery of the public service purposes set out in the 2003 Communications Act. Parliament asked Ofcom to monitor the effectiveness of public service broadcasters in delivering the range of PSB Purposes and Characteristics. The first Review was in 2004. Subsequent PSB Reviews will be conducted at least every five years.
- This report, which will be provided annually, will help prepare for the next PSB Review, and also gives objective evidence as context for licensees’ annual statements of programme policy and (SOPPs) and self-assessment reviews (SARs). The report does not report on broadcaster compliance with quotas. These are published in Ofcom’s annual Communications Market Review.
- While the key purpose of this report is to show how PSB as a whole is being achieved in the UK, in order to carry this out it needs to consider the contribution of the individual PSB channels. However, it is important to state from the outset that the report is not an assessment of the individual performance of the public service broadcasters. The report contains no editorial commentary.
- The focus of this report is upon the designated PSB broadcasters. The extent to which public service content may be provided by other channels is not addressed. However, the next PSB Review will undoubtedly examine this issue, given the importance of digital channels and changes in media consumption. Recent changes in the media are discussed in this report in the overview of the UK television market.
- This is the first year of publication, and Ofcom welcomes suggestions from stakeholders about what other elements of reporting could be included in forthcoming years.
- The main analyses through which PSB is examined in this report are as follows:
- Output hours: the hours and minutes per week or year transmitted by broadcasters, showing 2002–2006 trends. This data is submitted by broadcasters to Ofcom as part of their annual PSB returns. Figure 4 in the Introduction provides an overview of what types of programme are included in which genre category.
- Viewing figures: who is watching the output; for how long; 2002–2006 trends from the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB). Most figures show viewing averages for all viewers aged 4+, the standard universe for the BARB currency.
- Audience impact: what regular viewers think of the output – 2006 data providing the first published findings from Ofcom’s PSB Tracker survey, which asks viewers for their opinions of how well channels deliver PSB Purposes and Characteristics. This is contextualised with findings from the BBC-GfK Pulse survey, which asks about individual programmes.
- It is important to note how the findings from the Ofcom Tracker are reported. Firstly, this report gives the opinions of regular viewers of a channel, rather than all viewers. Regular viewers are more likely to provide an informed view of the performance of a channel than those who may respond with potentially out-of-date or unfounded perceptions. For some of the smaller channels, this may mean that particular types of viewer only go to that channel for particular types of programme, and therefore may not be as knowledgeable about other programme types. Secondly, respondents were asked to rate each channel on a scale of 1–10 on a variety of statements. Scores of between 7 and 10 are used as the main unit of reporting, correlating to a positive affirmation of a channel’s delivery. Therefore, “60% rated the channel” refers to the fact that 60% of viewers gave the channel a score of between 7-10.
- For the purposes of consistency, output hours, viewing figures, and audience impact are provided for each channel in the report’s charts and diagrams, regardless of whether or not the channel has a particular PSB remit in that area. However, the text focuses on those elements where individual channels have a particular remit, or where channels could be expected to make a PSB contribution. These contributions are set out in the following table, taken from the 2004 PSB Review:
Contributions to PSB from main broadcasters/providers
The BBC as the cornerstone of PSB, with special responsibility for investing in distinctive content and always striving to meet PSB Purposes and Characteristics.
ITV1 focusing on news and high production value origination from around the UK. ITV1 having a special additional responsibility for the provision of regional news, current affairs and other regional programming.
Channel 4 as having a specific remit for innovation, educative programming and distinctiveness.
Five being primarily market-led with a focus on UK original production.
S4C having a key role in Welsh language public service broadcasting.
Teletext having a remit for a range of high quality and diverse text material
Source: Ofcom PSB Review Phase 3: Competition for Quality
The main findings from the research are set out below.
- PSB as a whole continues to be valued highly by viewers.
- The provision of programmes which help inform people’s understanding of the world is the most important element of PSB amongst viewers, and is also the area perceived to be best delivered.
- The PSB channels contribute to the delivery of overall PSB objectives in different ways.
- The BBC performs particularly strongly across many of the elements of PSB. BBC One’s strengths are in delivering news and big national events, while BBC Two performs well for stimulating knowledge and learning.
- ITV1 is appreciated for its quality drama and regional identity; its provision of peak-time first-run originated Drama and Soap is also significantly higher than other channels.
- Channel 4 is rated most highly for engaging, high quality and challenging programmes; 16-24s rate Channel 4 more highly on virtually all PSB measures than the audience as a whole.
- Five’s output is less strongly appreciated by regular viewers in general terms, reflecting the relative size and salience of the channel. However, when looking at appreciation of individual programmes, it gets strong support.
- Children’s PSB is valued particularly highly by parents, but there are clear issues with some elements of its delivery, particularly on ITV1.
- There are a number of areas where PSB is perceived to be delivering less well. Innovation is rated as important by nearly 6 out of 10 viewers, however in terms of delivery it scores lower than any other PSB Characteristic, a finding consistent with Ofcom’s 2004 PSB Review. The reflection of regions to the rest of the UK is also perceived to be being delivered less well (albeit of stated lower priority for people). Programmes that stimulate learning or that challenge people are similarly not perceived as particularly well delivered.
- Viewing of UK content has also decreased in some areas, most notably to comedy. Terrestrial viewing of Music programmes is down, although viewing of Arts programmes has increased.
The UK television landscape
- Take-up of digital television continued to rise in 2006, driven mainly by the growth of Freeview. In September 2006 73% of households watched digital television on their main set, a 7.9 percentage point increase on the previous year.
- Net advertising revenue (NAR) fell by 8% in 2006. In contrast, subscription revenues rose, resulting in subscription revenues exceeding NAR by £1bn.
- The terrestrial broadcasters continued to develop internet, mobile and multichannel content services, expanding their distribution of public service content on a variety of digital platforms.
Purpose 1: Informing our understanding of the world
“To inform ourselves and others and to increase our understanding of the world through news, information and analysis of current events and ideas”
- News remains the cornerstone of PSB provision in the eyes of viewers. It consistently outranks other elements of PSB. It is seen as particularly well delivered by regular viewers of the BBC, slightly less so by ITV1 and Channel 4 regular viewers. That said, viewers to specific Channel 4 news programmes appreciate them more than viewers of news programmes on other channels. Levels of trust in all the news providers is high.
- While the relative proportion of News in peak time has decreased slightly from 11% in the period 2002-2004, to 10% in 2005 and 2006, Current Affairs has increased slightly during the same period from 3% to 4% of overall peak-time output
- Average annual hours of viewing to news, across all individuals in the UK, dipped sharply in 2006 to 91 hours, from 98 hours in 2005. However, this is likely to be in part due to a decrease in the overall hours of output from 7,311 hours in 2005 to 6,879 hours in 2006. Hours of news output do shift considerably from year to year depending on the news agenda.
Purpose 2: Stimulating knowledge and learning
“To stimulate our interest in and knowledge of arts, science, history and other topics through content that is accessible and can encourage informal learning”
- The provision of programmes which stimulate informal learning is considered important by around 6 in 10 viewers – a mid-ranking score compared to other Purposes and Characteristics. However, perceptions as to its delivery are lower, at 4 in 10 viewers. Perceived delivery of such programming does not vary much by channel, although regular viewers of BBC Two rate it highest (51%) compared to 41% of Channel 4’s regular viewers. Attitudes toward the delivery of interesting programmes about history, science or the arts are more sharply delineated, with 75% of BBC Two’s regular viewers rating it between 7-10 out of 10, compared to 48% of Channel 4’s and BBC Four’s, and 26% of Five’s.
- Factual output (including documentaries, consumer affairs, and factual entertainment among other genres) across all PSB channels increased substantially since 2002, rising from 7,797 hours in 2002 to 10,684 hours in 2006. However, in 2006 the increase was only marginal on 2005. There was a slight reduction in hours on BBC Two and Channel 4 compared to 2005. In contrast, hours of Factual output increased on ITV1 from 1,559 hours in 2005 to 1,864 hours in 2006. Output on Five also increased, from 751 hours in 2005 to 881 hours in 2006.
- Peak-time, first-run original Serious Factual output (including natural history, science and technology, and history programmes) across the PSB channels rose from 824 hours in 2002 to 915 hours in 2006. However, this was largely due to an increase in output on BBC Three and BBC Four, from 75 hours to 170 hours. Five’s output also increased significantly over the period, from 143 hours in 2002 to 203 hours in 2006. Peak-time first-run original Serious Factual output on Channel 4 declined in the period 2002-2006 by nearly one quarter, from 194 hours in 2002 to 150 in 2006. BBC One and Two’s output decreased marginally during this period. The 2006 total for the broadcasters taken together is lower than the total for 2005, which was 1,018.
- BBC Four provides a significant proportion of overall Arts and Classical Music output – out of the 1,789 hours broadcast across all the PSB channels in 2006, it contributed 1,125 hours. However, its peak-time hours decreased over the period, from 510 hours in 2002 to 409 in 2006. In peak time, Five’s output increased from 23 hours in 2002 to 35 hours in 2006. Channel 4 output was the same in 2006 as it was in 2002 - 32 hours. BBC One’s output halved from 18 hours to 9, while BBC Two’s increased from 94 to 130 hours. BBC Three’s hours reduced considerably in peak time, from 100 hours in 2002 to 25 in 2006.
- Viewing of peak-time first-run Serious Factual programmes has increased over time, driven by increased viewing of BBC Two and Channel 4’s output. However, viewing of other kinds of Factual programmes decreased in 2006, from 149 hours in 2005 to 125 hours in 2006.
Purpose 3: Reflecting UK cultural identity
“To reflect and strengthen our cultural identity through original programming at UK, national and regional level, on occasion bringing audiences together for shared experiences”
- A number of different programme genres and elements of PSB are combined in this Purpose, which taken together illustrate the extent to which UK identity is reflected and shared. Drama, soaps and comedy are key programme types which reflect cultural identity - as are regional programmes, news and non-news output. While UK drama and soaps in themselves aren’t perceived as particularly important elements of PSB by viewers when compared with other genres, they are seen to be well delivered, particularly on ITV1.
- Around half of regular viewers of BBC One, BBC Two, ITV1 and Channel 4 feel that their programmes show people from different parts of the UK, with younger Channel 4 viewers rating this particularly highly (60%). Regional news programming is perceived as important and well delivered both on BBC and ITV.
- The portrayal of the regions to the rest of the UK is perceived as being less well delivered, although ITV1 and BBC One are rated by their viewers more highly than the other channels. However, this element of PSB is perceived as less important to viewers than most of the other Purposes and Characteristics.
- First-run Originated Drama output (excluding Soaps) accounted for 714 hours of peak-time terrestrial scheduling during 2006, an increase since 2002 of 10%. Peak-time Originated Soap output on BBC One has remained steady since 2002, while output on ITV has increased from 255 hours in 2002 to 294 hours in 2006.
- The Drama and Soap genres, including some non-UK material, form nearly 40% of viewing time on the main terrestrial channels taken together. Since 2002 UK comedy viewing decreased by one third, with 16-24s watching most of their comedy on Channel 4, while older audiences watch more on the BBC. Viewing to UK Soap decreased, from 82 hours in 2005 to 70 hours in 2006.
- BBC regional output in England increased from 3,653 hours in 2002 to 4,018 hours in 2006. During the same period, ITV1’s regional output decreased significantly, due to its reduction in programmes other than News and Current Affairs, an outcome of the 2004 PSB Review. In the Nations, BBC and ITV1 non-network hours of output decreased slightly, except in Scotland where ITV1 non-network output hours decreased more steeply.
- Audience share of ITV1 and BBC1 evening regional news programmes varies considerably across the UK, with UTV being particularly strong in Northern Ireland.
- Many network programmes with specific regional or national locations tend to gain higher audience shares in those particular regions or Nations. In particular, Rebus, Doc Martin, Taggart, Coronation Street and Shameless do well in their areas of location.
Purpose 4: Representing diversity and alternative viewpoints
“To make us aware of different cultures and alternative viewpoints, through programmes that reflect the lives of other people and other communities, both within the UK and elsewhere”
- Channel 4, BBC Two and BBC One are all rated as representing diversity and alternative viewpoints by around half their regular viewers. Younger people are more likely to rate Channel 4 and BBC Two highly.
- High quality, engaging, and challenging programmes are all judged important by around two-thirds of respondents. Innovative content is seen as important by 57% of the population.
High quality – “well-funded and well-produced”
- Almost three quarters of regular viewers (73%) of BBC One and BBC Two rate those channels as showing programmes of high quality. Some 62% rate ITV1, 58% Channel 4 and 41% Five. Younger viewers (aged 16-34 years) of all channels tend to have a more positive view of the quality of the programmes than older viewers. There is a particular difference in views among Channel 4 viewers: 74% of its regular viewers aged 16-24 say it shows high quality programmes, compared to 55% of its viewers aged 35-54, and 47% of its viewers aged over 55.
Original – “new original content rather than repeats or acquisitions”
- Almost half of BBC One and BBC Two regular viewers say the channels show enough new programmes made in the UK (48% and 49% respectively). 44% of ITV1’s regular viewers think it shows enough new programmes, and 41% of Channel 4’s. Less than one quarter (23%) of Five’s regular viewers find the statement applicable to the channel, and 18% rate it poorly on the provision of original UK content. This is likely to be reflective of its lower programme budget compared with the other main PSB channels.
- There has been little change in the amounts of peak-time network originated content (5,615 hours in 2002 compared to 5,476 hours in 2006), reflecting the quotas on such content in peak time. Regional originations are closely related to overall regional output, and their decline since 2005 is largely due to ITV’s reduction in non-news regional output.
Innovative – “breaking new ideas or re-inventing exciting approaches, rather than copying old ones”
- While 57% of viewers said it was important that the PSB channels should provide innovative programming, only 32% of respondents said that innovation was being delivered across the PSBs – the second-lowest rating for delivery of PSB Purposes and Characteristics.
- Delivery of innovation by particular channels is rated more highly. Around half of regular viewers rate Channel 4 (51%) and BBC Two (50%) as providing programmes with new ideas and different approaches. BBC One was seen as innovative by 43%, ITV1 by 38%, and Five by 30%. BBC Three and BBC Four’s perceived levels of innovation were higher than that of ITV1 and Five (45% and 42% respectively).
- 70% of Channel 4’s 16-24 viewers rate it between 7-10 out of 10 for providing programmes with new ideas and different approaches, compared to 60% of BBC Two’s 16-24 audience. While younger regular viewers are more likely to value all the terrestrial channels than are older viewers, older people are particularly unlikely to value Channel 4 for showing new ideas and different approaches (32% of over-65s rate it).
Challenging – “making viewers think”
- BBC Two is seen by 61% of its regular viewers as showing challenging programmes, with BBC One and Channel 4 also being rated by over half their regular viewers (54%). Some 43% of ITV’s viewers thought this statement applicable to the channel, and around one third (32%) of Five’s viewers.
Engaging – “remaining accessible and attractive to viewers”
- In general terms, half of viewers feel that the PSB channels, when taken together, are providing them with programmes they want to watch (a further 40% did not have a strong opinion either way). When asked about specific channels, some 62% of BBC One and BBC Two regular viewers, 60% of Channel 4 regular viewers, 58% of ITV1 regular viewers, and 43% of Five’s regular viewers feel that the respective channels shows programmes they want to watch. This latter result is likely to be related to the relative size and salience of the channel.
- Channel 4’s younger regular viewers felt particularly positive about its programming – 83% of its 16-24 year old viewers said it showed programmes they wanted to watch, the highest rating across all channels and demographic groups. Its regular viewers aged over 65 were particularly likely to rate it poorly, as were those in socio-economic group DE.
- There is less agreement that the channels reflect viewers’ own interests and concerns. Just under half of BBC Two’s regular viewers feel that it reflects their interests, and 47% of BBC One’s regular viewers feel that it does so. Just over 40% of ITV1’s and Channel 4’s regular viewers feel that the channel reflects their concerns and interests, although this figure rises to 59% among younger Channel 4 viewers.
Children and PSB
- BBC One, BBC Two, CBBC and CBeebies were all rated highly by parents on delivering almost all the PSB Purposes and Characteristics in children’s programming. Apart from the BBC channels (terrestrial and children’s digital), parents rated Five highly as showing programmes that their child wanted to watch.
- Overall, the perceived discrepancies between the importance and delivery of elements of PSB are particularly marked for children’s programming.
- The volume of children’s PSB output – including CBBC and CBeebies - has declined marginally from 2002 (12,771 hours) to 2006 (12,340 hours). However, children’s output on the five terrestrial PSB channels declined by 11% from 2002 to 2006. In 2006, of the five terrestrial PSB channels, BBC Two and Five provided the greatest number of hours per year of children’s programming; 1,453 hours and 1,337 hours respectively.
- There has been an increase in the proportion of children’s viewing to Children’s genre multichannel output (including both commercial and BBC digital channels,) from 56% of total weekly hours viewed in 2002 to 82% in 2006. There was growth in the proportion of viewing of BBC digital channels from 9% in 2002 to 21% in 2006.
- In multichannel homes there has been a 36% decline in children’s viewing of children’s programmes on the five terrestrial PSB channels, from 47 hours per child per year in 2002 to 30 hours per year in 2006.
- Viewing to children’s output on ITV1 and BBC One in multichannel homes dropped by half between 2002 and 2006 – ITV1’s from 12 hours to 6 hours, and BBC One from 18 hours to 8 hours.
- Regular viewers of S4C Welsh language programming identify the channel most strongly with PSB Purpose 1 relating to news provision, and to Purpose 3 relating to regional/national output. It is seen by 6 in 10 (61%) as portraying Wales well to the rest of the UK. However, overall, S4C is less likely than the PSB channels together to be seen as providing many of the elements of PSB.
- In 2006, Welsh language programming accounted for 4,512 hours of the S4C service. This figure is slightly higher than that of 2005, of 4,472 hours. Originated Welsh language output by genre for the years 2004-2006 shows the dominance of Factual programming, and also high levels of sports output.
- S4C Welsh-language programmes were watched for an average of twenty one hours per year, or twenty four minutes per week, in 2006, up slightly on 2005 figures. Share of peak-time viewing (which by definition is focused on Welsh language programming) in 2005 was 3.1%, up from 2.8% in 2004 – an 11% increase.
- Amongst those that use Teletext at least once a month, opinions of its delivery are positive: 95% agree that there is a wide range of information available; 88% agree that they can trust it to be accurate and impartial; and 75% agree that there is a range of good quality information about the local area.
- The average number of adults viewing Teletext on a weekly basis between July 2005 and June 2006 was 13.7 million, a decrease from just over 15 million in 2005. This continues a trend of decline in use.
- Both regional and national news pages are ranked highly in the types of information said to be accessed through Teletext; these are viewed by just over one third of Teletext viewers (36% and 34% respectively). Any type of news is accessed by almost half of all Teletext viewers (46%). The other most popular pages are weather and sports (claimed to be read by 57% and 46% of viewers).
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