Public Service Broadcasting: Annual Report 2008
Ofcom has a duty to assess the designated public service broadcasters (PSBs), taken together, in terms of their delivery of the public service purposes set out in the 2003 Communications Act.
This is the second report in an annual series that 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. This report gives 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 in the UK, and how this has changed over the last five years.
These annual reports will provide an evidence base for the performance of the public service broadcasters in the lead-up to digital switchover. Ofcom's second PSB Review is currently under way, in which Ofcom will assess the delivery of PSB and recommend ways of maintaining and strengthening quality of public service broadcasting. Data from this report have been used extensively within the PSB review.
The main findings from the research are set out below.
- Overall, audiences believe that public purposes are important and are generally being delivered by the PSB channels together. Specifically, most people still feel that the public service broadcasters (PSBs) deliver well-made, high quality programmes; satisfaction with delivery of news and information is particularly high.
- While satisfaction with current PSB delivery is generally high among UK viewers, there are some areas where audiences expect more than they currently get from the main five channels, particularly programming for the nations and regions, UK Children's content, and the areas of innovation, new programmes made in the UK, challenging content, quality and trust.
- The PSBs continue to commission first-run UK originated production. The number of hours of first-run UK originated programming on the main five channels increased by 2% in 2007 compared to 2006, largely driven by the Other Factual category. However, investment in first-run originated programming has decreased by 10% in real terms from 2003 to 2007.
- The combined audience share of the main PSB channels fell by 3% in 2007 compared to 2006, although it was stable in cable and satellite homes, and the PSBs still accounted for around two-thirds of viewing in 2007. In peak time, combined share of the main PSB channels fell by around 3% in 2007, to 61%.
- Viewing of Children's programming on the PSB channels rose for the first time in over five years, from 84 hours per year per child to 88 hours, an increase of 5%. This was largely due to the performance of the BBC children's channels.
Importance and delivery of purposes and characteristics on PSB channels
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
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
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
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
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
- Overall, audiences believe that public purposes are important and are generally being delivered by the PSB channels together.
- Statements relating to delivery of programming which informs people's understanding of the world are deemed to be the most important elements of PSB by the majority of UK viewers. They are also the areas where the broadcasters are delivering their strongest performance, according to viewers' satisfaction ratings, with around two-thirds of respondents being satisfied with statements relating to this purpose.
- Regional News is perceived as particularly important to viewers in all the nations, along with the positive portrayal of people in the nations/regions to the rest of the UKand provision of non-News regional programmes. The positive portrayal of lives in the nations is seen as important by those in the devolved nations.
- While statements relating to programming for the nations and regions and Children's programmes are ranked highly in terms of importance, satisfaction is much lower, with significant gaps between importance and satisfaction suggesting that there is room for improvement in these areas.
- In terms of the characteristics of public service broadcasting, all of these were seen as important by at least two-thirds of respondents. Showing well-made, high quality programmes, trust in channels and showing programmes that viewers want to watch were perceived to be the most important characteristics.
- However, there are significant gaps between importance and satisfaction including trust in channels, the amount of new programmes made in the UK and innovation in terms of showing programmes with new ideas and different approaches.
- Showing enough new programmes, made in the UK is one of the lowest-rated characteristics and has one of the largest ‘satisfaction gaps' between perceived importance and perceived delivery. It is also worth noting that the BBC/Gfk Pulse survey found that UK-made programmes were much more likely to have taught viewers something new, were discussed by viewers after watching and were thought of as being inspiring and thought provoking.
- Other characteristics where there are sizeable gaps between importance and delivery are challenging (showing programmes that make me stop and think) and quality (showing well-made high quality programmes).
Contribution of individual channels to PSB purposes and characteristics
- Regular viewers' opinions of each of the channels improved in 2007 compared to 2006. However, the strengths of the main five channels, relative to each other, remain broadly the same.
- Purpose 1 - informing our understanding of the world - continues to be delivered particularly well by BBC One.
- BBC Two continues to make the strongest contribution to purpose 2 - stimulating knowledge and learning.
- In terms of purpose 3 - reflecting UK cultural identity - BBC One and ITV1 are still perceived to be the channels which best offer coverage of big national events and high quality UK Soaps and Drama. The audience perception is that programming for the nations and regions also continues to be well-delivered by these channels.
- Purpose 4 - representing diversity and alternative viewpoints - continues to be an area of strength for Channel 4, as well as BBC One and Two.
- In terms of PSB characteristics, being innovative is still most associated with BBC Two and Channel 4. Perceived quality of programmes is highest for BBC channels. BBC Two, BBC One and Channel 4 are seen as the channels most likely to provide challenging content. Five is strongly associated with engaging programming.
- BBC News 24 was included on the PSB Tracker survey for the first time in 2007. It is viewed particularly positively among its regular viewers, and while its strength lies in purpose 1 - informing our understanding of the world - it also scores very positively on all the remaining purposes and characteristics.
Output of PSB channels
- Output of first-run originated programming on the main five channels increased in 2007 by 2% to 34,141 hours, largely driven by non-peak, network originations in the form of late-night phone-in quiz programmes on ITV1 and Five, which were produced in-house or commissioned. However, investment in first-run originated programming has decreased by 10% in real terms from £3 billion in 2003 to £2.7 billion 2007.
- The growth in Factual output on the PSB channels in recent years continued in 2007, to 11,162 hours, up from 10,570. Increases in output in the past year were driven by lighter, less serious, Factual sub-genres such as Magazine formats, Leisure & Hobbies and Factual Entertainment.
- The amount of first-run peak time-originated Specialist Factual increased slightly in 2007 (due to more output on Five, BBC Two and BBC Four), but not to the levels seen in 2005.
- Hours of ‘Formal' Education programmes declined in 2007. This was due to fewer repeats of programmes for schools on BBC Two and CBBC (having been replaced by Children's programmes) and a change in the volume broadcast under the BBC's Learning Zone.
- Hours of Religious and Arts programming also continue to decline.
Viewing of PSB channels
- The combined audience share in all homes of the five main channels continued to fall in 2007. Decreases were seen in peak time (from 74% to 71%) and all day (from 67% to 64%). Share for multichannels increased at the expense of the main channels.
- Across the whole day Channel 4 had the largest fall in audience share and ITV1 had the largest peak-time decline.
- Share of viewing of the main five channels on cable and satellite remained stable in 2007, at 48%. However, combined share on Freeview dropped by a further 4% to 67% in 2007, compared to 2006.
- In order to compete in the digital environment, the main five channels have developed digital channel portfolios, which compensate for reduced share on the parent channel. In multichannel homes, the BBC's overall family of channels and the ITV family of channels attained significant share at 31% and 22% respectively. Channel 4's family of channels received a share of 11% and Five benefited from its portfolio channel launches with a small uplift in overall audience share in 2007 to 6%.
- The genre mix watched on the main five channels remained similar in 2007 as in 2006 (in terms of share of viewing).
- Average yearly viewing of UK Comedy has reduced by 50% over the past five years, to eight hours in 2007. In 2003 just over half of all viewing of UK Comedy was of programmes on BBC One, while in 2007, three-quarters of viewing was on this channel.
- The downward trend in the total volume of Children's programmes broadcast continued in 2007. However, a higher volume of programmes were shown on BBC Two, CBBC and CBeebies, although this was largely due to repeats.
- Hours of first-run originated Children's programming on PSB channels were down by one-third in 2007 compared to the previous year:
- ITV1's first-run originated children's output fell from 158 to 106 hours. This reflected ITV1's strategy of shifting Children's programming from the weekday afternoon slots to other parts of the schedule.
- Although the BBC increased investment in first-run originated Children's programming, its volume decreased from 1,276 hours in 2006 to 803 hours in 2007. This was partly due to changes in the BBC's commissioning strategy which reduced the numbers of long-running, low cost shows and aimed to produce fewer but better programmes. There were also changes in scheduling in 2007 which meant that programmes were no longer broadcast simultaneously across channels and were therefore no longer counted as first-run originations on each channel.
- Viewing of Children's programming on the PSB channels increased from 84 hours per year per child to 88 hours, an increase of 5%. The proportion of Children's programming watched on the BBC digital channels increased (from 21% share in 2006 to 24% in 2007) at the expense of the commercial multichannels.
- Children's PSB is still seen as important by parents of children of all ages. However, it has one of the largest gaps between satisfaction and importance, with just under half of all parents seeing the PSB channels together as performing well.
- The reach of analogue Teletext and Ceefax declined sharply between 2004 and 2006 across the main five channels and this decline continued across all channels from 2006 to 2007, albeit at a slower rate. The analogue service is currently more popular with viewers than the digital terrestrial television service, even in digital television households.
- Just over a third of the UK population (36%) claimed to use Teletext, and opinions of the Teletext service are positive among regular users.
- Despite this reduction in reach, the Teletext service continues to be valued among many of its loyal user base. Regional/national (55%) and UK News (51%) pages are claimed to be among the most-viewed information, along with Weather (66%) and Sports (55%), based on those who use the service at least once a month.
- Regular viewers of S4C Welsh-language programming associate the channel most strongly with PSB purpose, 1 relating to News provision, and to purpose 3, relating to regional/national output.
- The weekly reach of Welsh-language programming on S4C was 20% in 2007; lower than in 2006, and continuing the longer-term trend of declining weekly reach of S4C Welsh-language programming.
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