Think tank calls for radical reforms of public service broadcasting

The BBC must be radically reformed if public service broadcasting (PSB) is to survive in the digital age, according to a new independent report.

The Change the Channel report by independent think tank Policy Exchange has set out a number of changes to how public service broadcast is handled in the UK, including abolishing the BBC Trust and replacing it with a Public Service Content Trust (PSBT) which would promote PSB across all TV, radio and broadband.

It says that the BBC should place quality before ratings and should “stop spending huge resources” on sports rights, popular entertainment and programmes targeting the 16 – 35 age group with the sole purpose of extending reach.

Channel 4 should be privatised but retain its PSB license for 10 years and the broadcaster should also be allocated extra digital capacity. The report also suggests that Channel 4 should gain cross promotional access to the BBC’s new media platforms such as iPlayer and Project Canvas.

While it recognised that there may be a eed for a £3.5bn investment in high speed internet infrastructure, the report suggests it be funded from general taxation and not a newly introduced telecom tax.

Under its guidance, ITV and Five would be allowed to opt out of the PSB system after 2012, which would meant hey no longer had to  keep to PSB commitments, but would also be required to pay for  the digital terrestrial frequency which was previously gifted.

Mark Oliver, author of the report, says: “The current UK broadcasting system was set up in the 1950s and now struggles to keep up with the extraordinary changes of the digital age. It is clear that the 20th century analogue institutions that were created are now worryingly out of date. We need a dramatic rethink if we are to continue to deliver public service broadcasting in an entirely new age.”

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