Ofcom: Mobile, Internet Could Play A Role In Public Sector Broadcasting

Broadcasters are not the only ones trying to figure out how best to use emerging platforms like the internet and mobile to deliver their content; now it seems regulators are also jumping on the new media bandwagon. In the UK, Ofcom says it wants to assess how mobile and the internet could be used to meet demands for public service broadcasting.
From Ofcom: “Audio-visual services delivered over the internet and mobile networks are increasingly sophisticated and widespread, offering high-quality content delivered to consumers on their own terms,” says Ofcom. “The distinctions between content broadcast on traditional television and those delivered on new platforms are increasingly blurred. So there is potential for these new services to offer public service content.”
The move is a new one for Ofcom, which cites recent trends that have moved the goalposts for reaching mass audiences:
— Mass adoption of digital TV (eight in 10 houses now have digital TV services)
— Smaller audiences as a result (Ofcom says the combined share of BBC1, BBC 2, ITV1, Channel 4 and Five fell 10 percentage points between 2001 and 2005 and fell 3.6 percentage points in 2006 alone)
— A huge decline in the number of 16-24 year olds watching terrestrial TV (55 percent in 2006; in 2001 it was 74.3 percent)
— A tumble in TV ad revenues (2,427 million pounds in 2006 versus 2,559 million pounds in 2002)
Ofcom says it will look at what terrestrial broadcasters are already offering in the way of “non-traditional audio-visual services,” as well as what other kinds of broadcasters and online producers might do to deliver PSB content. This is potentially a big deal, since the implications could be that an internet site widely used in the UK, such as MySpace or YouTube, might be required to meet PSB rules, or could be used by terrestrial broadcasters like the BBC or Channel 4 to satisfy some of their own criteria. But the ramifications, if any, will be a long time coming: other Ofcom figures released in August noted only 2 percent of people used mobile TV on their phones in the UK. Plus, the inquiry into the roles of mobile and Internet will be part of an overall PSB review, which is scheduled to be completed only by early 2009. Link to Ofcom’s review document