The government’s proposed reforms in the DCMS White Paper represent a concerted ideological attack on public service media in the UK, built on spurious evidence and undertaken entirely without a meaningful democratic process.
The policy program set out in the White Paper would further commercialize the UK’s broadcasting sector, expose public media organizations to greater political interference, and diminish the range and quality of content made for UK audiences.
In this briefing, we explore the White Paper and set out our alternative recommendations for a more democratic policy platform that truly serves the public interest in an evolving media landscape.
PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING
At the center of the White Paper is the government’s plan for a new remit and regulatory framework for public service broadcasting (PSB) in the UK, designed to fit with “the latest trends and developments in the sector”.
The current purposes and objectives will be replaced with a shorter ‘streamlined’ remit, focussed on three types of content that “would make us poorer as a nation” if not provided – culturally relevant content, economically important content, and democratically impactful content.
Although these qualities are an important part of what distinguishes public media from the market, they do not on their own capture the full range of benefits that the public values and expects from the UK’s unique PSB ecology.
Under the half-baked rationale of ditching “outdated”, and “overlapping” principles, the White Paper seeks to dilute the role of PSBs to a narrow set of services while reducing (or potentially even preventing) the provision of universal public service content across social and culturally significant genres.
Unlike the existing purposes set out in 2003, the new remit does not include any mention of requiring the broad provision of services for children, programming on arts, sciences, and religion, or educational content – genres that are consistently viewed by the public as unique benefits of PSB.
Also completely absent from the White Paper is any recognition of the importance of universality; serving the needs and interests of all audiences, not just the largest or most commercially profitable, including through offering ‘popular’ content in drama, comedy, and music.