Rise in appreciation for public service TV

By Andrew Laughlin, Technology Reporter

Ofcom has revealed that viewer appreciation for public service broadcasting has increased over the past two years, despite cuts in funding for UK programming.

Published today, the regulator's third annual public service broadcasting report has shown that 63% of viewers perceived PSB channels to be well-produced and high quality in 2008, representing an increase of four percentage points on previous figures.

Some 67% said that they considered PSB news and current affairs programming to be trustworthy, up from 62% in 2006, and a further 67% of viewers particularly praised the coverage of major national events, up from 64% in 2007.

However, the report also revealed the level of decline in funding for original programming at the five main UK PSBs.
It was discovered that investment in UK-produced original programming has fallen from £3 billion in 2004 to £2.6 billion in 2008, resulting in the total hours of first run originated broadcasting to fall by 3% during the four-year period.

Average viewing hours for PSBs also declined in this time by 15% overall, with the biggest drop being discovered in children and people under the age of 44.
Back in March, former Doctor Who writer Russell T. Davies called for more money to be urgently invested in children's television to boost flagging levels of quality.

Underlining this point, Ofcom's consultation indicated that commercial PSB spending on UK-produced children's programming fell by 70% between 2004 and 2008, with the BBC's expenditure also being cut from £97 to £77 million in the same period.

This has resulted in the number of children's TV viewing hours on all PSBs to drop from 1,887 hours in 2004 to 919 hours in 2008, with the proportion of children viewing such programming also declining from 47% to 36%.
These funding cuts have been mirrored in current affairs and network news, in which PSBs slashed their overall spending from £289 million in 2004 to £250 million in 2008.

Back in January, the watchdog recommended that a new model was required for public service broadcasting in the face of a "rapidly changing UK television market".