Friday, October 01, 2004

Resource update - OFCOM public service broadcasting review

So it's not strictly telco-related, but it is highly relevant to the on-demand content offerings of the telcos/ISPs/MSOs, and Sky in the UK (and potentially elsewhere in Europe), and also to previous posts here on related issues. Fundamentally, in its second phase of the Public Service Television Broadcasting (PSB) review, OFCOM is grappling with dramatic changes in viewing patterns in the UK, and seems determined to ensure that commercial television does not devolve into one huge reality/hidden camera/home improvement morass.

What's really remarkable about this document is the frankness with which OFCOM has set about confronting the need to address the "market of one" issue, i.e., the growing tendency of media consumers to take an active role in defining and structuring their individual intake on an a la carte basis wherever possible (DVD, VOD, file sharing, time-shifting). Pages 81 - 84 propose the establishment of a new Public Service Publisher (this could be comprised of one or more of the existing broadcasting entities, or a complete newcomer), which would:

"...commission and distribute content as widely as possible, using a variety of
technologies to reach households. It could also have the opportunity to explore
new ways of contributing to public sector broadcasting purposes, unencumbered by the need to protect existing TV channels. As technology progresses, we could
expect the PSP to commission and distribute content on new digital distribution
systems such as broadband, networked PVRs, mobile networks as well as cable,
satellite and digital terrestrial broadcasting."

OFCOM proposes a direct funding mechanism which it projects could provide up to GBP300m per annum at maturity (when full digital switchover is achieved in 2012). Whether this proposal and its funding mechanism have legs is probably down to politics, which is beyond the scope of this blog. However, from the standpoint of where the consumer is heading, it is interesting to see such an influential body as OFCOM embracing technological and behavioral change, indeed seeking to harness and channel it, rather than obstruct or fight it.

The review is downloadable here:

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