Replace the licence fee and don’t privatise Channel 4 - Future for Public Service Television Inquiry publishes recommendations

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The Future for Public Service Television Inquiry, chaired by film producer, educator, and Goldsmiths Honorary Fellow Lord Puttnam, has today published its report and recommendations.

The Inquiry - based in the Department of Media and Communications at Goldsmiths - launched in November 2015 to focus on the purposes of television in an era characterised by technological transformations, shifts in audience consumption habits, and changes in cultural and political attitudes.

The report, launched at the British Academy on Wednesday 29 June, reflects on the extent to which the UK’s most popular television channels have addressed these issues and whether they continue to represent the interests and tell the stories of all the citizens of the UK.

Above all, it seeks to highlight the conditions that may allow for the production and circulation of high quality, creative and relevant public service content in these increasingly complex circumstances.

The report makes recommendations concerning the main public service TV channels, a new fund for public service content, a more transparent process for appointing the BBC unitary board, diversity, and the nations and regions.

The full report can be read at

Professor Des Freedman on the future of television.

A Future for Public Service Television Inquiry recommends:


1. In return for public service broadcasters meeting the obligations of their licences, their content should be guaranteed prominence on electronic programme guides, smart TVs and on the interfaces of on-demand players as they emerge.

2. Retransmission fees should be paid by pay-TV platforms to public service television operators to address the current undervaluation of public service content by these distributors.


3. The government should seek to replace the licence fee as soon as is practically possible with a more progressive funding mechanism such as a tiered platform-neutral household fee, a supplement to Council Tax or funding via general taxation with appropriate parliamentary safeguards.

4. The government should hand over decision-making concerning the funding of the BBC to an independent advisory body that works on fixed settlement periods.

5. The BBC should be reconstituted as a statutory body, thus abolishing its royal charter or – at the very minimum – providing statutory underpinning to a continuing royal charter.

6. Appointments to the BBC’s new unitary board should be entirely independent from government. We recommend that the process should be overseen by a new independent appointments body and based on a series of tests drawn up by the former commissioner for public appointments, Sir David Normington.

Channel 4

7. Channel 4 should not be privatised – neither in full nor in part – and we believe that the government should clarify its view on Channel 4’s future as soon as possible.

ITV and Channel 5

8. ITV and Channel 5 should continue to receive the privileges afforded to other public service broadcasters, but we believe that their commitment to that which is truly of 'public service' needs to be strengthened.

9. Ofcom should conduct a review of how best ITV can contribute to the public service ecology for the next decade and beyond, including explicit commitments for programming and investment, alongside a fresh look at the range of regulatory support that can be offered.

10. ITV should be asked to take on a more ambitious role in regional TV and in current affairs. Measures to be considered might include increasing the minimum amount of regional non-news programmes from 15 to 30 minutes a week, and an increase in network current affairs output to the equivalent of 90 minutes a week.

A new fund for public service content

11. The Inquiry calls for the creation of a new fund for public service content.

This would consist of a series of public service grants that would be open to cultural institutions and small organisations not presently engaged in commercial operations.

12. The public service grants would be funded by the proceeds of a levy on the revenues of the largest digital intermediaries and internet service providers, and would be disbursed by a new independent public media trust.


13. The 2010 Equality Act should be amended so that public service television commissioning and editorial policy would be covered by public service equality requirements.

14. A renewed commitment to diversity must be accompanied by sufficient funds. We believe the public service broadcasters should ring-fence funding specifically aimed at BAME productions.

Nations and Regions

15. Commissioning structures and funding need to better reflect devolutionary pressures and budgets for spending in the devolved nations should be wholly controlled by commissioners in those nations.

16. It is now time for a ‘Scottish Six’ – and indeed a ‘Welsh Six’ and a ‘Northern Irish Six’.