Ofcom would consider allowing Channel 4 to spread its public service obligations across its multichannel services in order to reach specific audiences.
In its third review of the PSBs Public Service Broadcasting in the Internet Age, the regulator says the PSB system needs to evolve as the trend towards online viewing grows.
It comes against a background of increasing on demand viewing among the young.
While the forthcoming Charter Review of the BBC is seen as critical there are also issues for Channel 4 – many on the right of the political spectrum will no doubt raise the spectre of privatisation – but Ofcom says consideration should be given to updating its PSB remit to ensure it can meet the needs of younger audiences.
Sharon White, Ofcom Chief Executive, said: “More people are watching online or on demand, and this presents challenges as well as opportunities for public service broadcasters. They must continue to find new ways of connecting with audiences, and the PSB system needs to evolve to ensure it remains effective in the digital age.”
The report brings up the issue of retransmission fees, sought by some of the PSBs for their carriage on subscription services, but Ofcom issues a warning: “These fees could bring additional funding for PSBs, but resolving any possible disagreements would probably require complicated and lengthy regulatory intervention. There is currently no guarantee that all fees would be spent on public service programmes.”
The report also looks at the internet as a source of UK news. It shows that in 2014, 41% of adults used the internet as a source of UK news, up from 16% in 2007. The BBC remains a popular source of internet news: three in five adults (59%) use the BBC website or app.
By comparison, 17% use the Sky News website/app, 5% use ITV’s or ITN’s website/app and 1% use Channel 4’s.
News also comes through search and social media: 18% use Google search, 17% Facebook, 9% using and 8% YouTube.
Ofcom notes that PSBs often use social media sites with a strong presence by Channel 4.