The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

Draft Media Bill Update

Audience advocates such as CMF and the Voice of the Listener and Viewer have reacted positively to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee’s report on the Government’s Draft Media Bill.  Having scrutinized the Bill in detail and taken evidence from many organisations and individuals, the Select Committee found it lacked teeth on the subject of PSB prominence and was insufficiently supportive of public service content in genres such as arts, religion and science.

The aim of the bill is to ensure public service broadcasters (BBC, ITV, STV, Channel 4, S4C and Channel 5) can thrive in the new world of streaming services. It updates their remit and while it classifies news and children’s content as essential public service genres, arts, religion and science are not.

However, the Select Committee’s scrutiny of the Bill has shown that this update of the PSB’s remit is in dangerous territory, citing how the removal back in 2003 of origination quotas for UK children’s content for commercial PSBs led to significant reductions in the production of original children’s TV.  CMF is pleased this has been recognised and can at least be used an example of what can go wrong if “must have” becomes “nice to have”.

While the recommendations don’t seek to redress the funding issue for kids’ content, the Select Committee report does recommend that the Government retains obligations on PSBs to provide specific genres of content – such as arts, religion etc.  It also calls for PSBs to be given ‘significant’ rather than ‘appropriate’ prominence in listings or content-search mechanisms. Public service content should be easy to find - a key element in the policy proposals that the children's Media Foundation is putting forward for kids' content in the future.  Other recommendations include ensuring TV-like content provided by streaming services is held to the same standards imposed on traditional broadcast content.

Chair of the CMS Committee, Dame Caroline Dinenage MP said, “Our Public Service Broadcasters play a central role in enriching our culture, society and democracy and this Bill is critical to ensuring they continue to thrive.  With significant legislation like this coming along only once in a generation, it is vital the Government gets it right. Our proposed changes to the Bill will ensure it is proportionate, future-proofed in a world of shifting viewing habits and rapid technological change, and most importantly in the very best interests of viewers and listeners.”

Much of this accords with what CMF has been saying about the Bill all along. That it should address the real issues of 21st Century viewing, especially by young people for whom on-demand viewing is their choice.  However, there is no recommendation by the Select Committee that the Bill’s provisions for public service content prominence be extended to video-sharing services such as YouTube or TikTok, which CMF will continue to advocate as the only means to ensure kids find public service content wherever it is placed.

If the government want the Bill to be “future-proofed and in the very best interests of viewers and listeners” they must address everywhere content is found and watched.

You can read the Select Committee’s full report here. The Government has to respond by 22nd November 2023.

Industry Policy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)