Drama and children's TV see investment decline
Ofcom's public service broadcasting review has brought to light the significant drop in spending across a number of genres by public service broadcasters (PSBs) for UK-originating content.
The PSBs (BBC, ITV, STV, UTV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and S4C) make a huge contribution to content development in the UK. In 2013 they invested £2bn in new UK programmes (not including sports) against an investment of £350m for non-PSBs such as Sky, Discovery, Fox, NBC Universal, Turner and Sony.
However, though this figure might seem high, the expenditure on programming from the public channels has in fact dropped by £440m (this including sports) between 2008-2014.
Despite the worldwide success of shows such as Downton Abbey, Sherlock and Doctor Who, drama is one of the genres most affected by the decrease in spend, with original UK drama investment declining from £484m in 2008 to £278m in 2014, a difference of 44%. This is coupled with a loss in the amount of drama exhibited on public service channels, which went from 627 hours in 2008 to 371 hours in 2014 - a decrease of 41%.
Children's programming also fell from £103m in 2008 to £88m in 2014. A positive for this genre is however that it is expected to have a sharp turnaround in spending because of the introduction of a new tax credit for children's TV. Currently, the BBC account for nearly 97% (£84m) of total PSB expenditure on children's programmes, with ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 dropping its disbursement by 74% in the genre, with just £3m spent on it in 2014.
Nevertheless, with decreases across a number of areas, audience satisfaction figures have gone up from 69% in 2008 to 79% in 2014, with many broadcasters still delivering high-profile dramas such as BBC's The Fall and ITV's Broadchurch. But, now with the dawn of digital viewing, Ofcom believes that broadcasters need to change their models to keep up with the change in viewer habits - their current income models, it says, might not suffice in the future and Ofcom fears this could lead to an even greater loss of investment.
Sharon White, Ofcom chief executive, said: "Public service broadcasting continues to deliver TV that is enjoyed and valued by millions of viewers across the UK.
"More people are watching online or on demand, and this presents challenges as well as opportunities for public service broadcasters. They must continue to find new ways of connecting with audiences, and the PSB system needs to evolve to ensure it remains effective in the digital age."
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