Joseph O'Halloran ©RapidTVNews | 22-07-2011

Even though overall it has seen a 12% fall since 2006, UK public service broadcasting (PSB) spending has begun to rise slightly to meet an increasing amount of TV viewing.

According to the Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) Annual Report by UK broadcaster Ofcom, spending on PSB network programming across the main five PSB channels and the BBC digital channels increased by 2% in real terms in 2010 to £2.9 billion, as TV viewing continued its long-term increase since 2006.

Five years ago viewers switched onto to PSB for 3.6 hours per day, rising from 3.8 hours in 2009 to 4.0 hours in 2010. Yet historically, viewing of the main five UK PSB channels—BBC One, BBC Two, ITV1, Channel 4 and Channel 5— declined from 2006 to 2009 (2.5 hours per day to 2.3 hours per day), but in 2010 returned to 2006 levels at 2.5 hours.

Share of viewing of the main five PSB channels in multichannel homes declined from 58% in 2006 to 54% in 2010. This decline, Ofcom added, was offset by an increased share of viewing among the PSBs' digital portfolio channels, from 11% in 2006 to 18% in 2010. This resulted in the combined shares of PSB channels increasing from 69% to 72% in multichannel homes over the corresponding time period.

In terms of investment, first-run originated programmes showed a similar decline with Ofcom calculating that expenditure flattened out in 2010 at £2.5 billion, ending a five-year period of year-on-year declines. However, over a four year period, this spending was also down by 12% in real terms.

Over a four-year period first-run spend overall decreased by 12% with reductions most substantial on Channel 5 (down 49%) and Channel 4 (down by 25%). Significant reductions in first-run content spend were also made by ITV1 (down by 15%) and on BBC Two (down by 11%), whereas BBC One saw no change.

Yet expenditure rose proportionally furthest on the BBC's digital channels, up by 9% to £208 million, while in absolute terms, BBC One's spending increase was greatest (up by £53 million to £816 million). The most pronounced proportionate reduction in first-run investment in 2010 was on Channel 5, down by 13% to £62 million; in absolute terms, Channel 4 spending fell by the greatest amount, down by 32 million, to £321 million.