In the BBC’s 2015 funding settlement commencing 2017, the Government assumed the BBC would fully fund the subsidy for over-75s to the tune of £750 million from 2020/21

Although the BBC’s settlement contained measures of “mitigation” worth c.£290 million, the BBC would still have faced a gap of c.£460 million to be funded by programme cuts and efficiencies (the BBC has pledged £250 million)

Including c.£300 million from the annual adjustment of the licence fee for inflation from 2017 would help. However, this was always required to offset normal salary and cost increases to prevent a real decline in the BBC’s resources

Ofcom’s recommendations to Government suggest updating EPG prominence legislation to cover connected TVs, and were warmly welcomed by the PSBs

Balancing various commercial, PSB and consumer interests will be key; determining what content qualifies for prominence will be a particularly thorny issue to resolve

Extending prominence to smart TVs and streaming sticks is critical, but implementation will be challenging

The UK government is now consulting on a wider TV advertising ban until 9pm for food and drink high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS), to combat childhood obesity

TV and TV advertising are not the cause of children being overweight or obese (O+O). Policy change in this area should inform and educate parents and young children, as they have in Leeds and Amsterdam

With 64% of the UK population being O+O, obesity is a complex societal issue requiring a multifaceted approach. The evidence from existing rules, and plummeting TV viewing amongst children, says that further restrictions on TV advertising will be ineffective in curbing the rise of obesity in the UK

The BBC’s consultation on rescinding free TV licences for all those aged 75 and over, in whole or in part, has sparked a heartfelt petition from key stakeholder Age UK to restore Government funding for the elderly, which we support

The Government has put the BBC in the intolerable position of choosing between funding the remit, whose delivery is regulated by Ofcom, and free TV licences for the over-75s, a lose-lose for the BBC, its viewers and listeners

In our submission to the BBC we highlight the human impact of reduced services and/or higher monthly expenses on the 2 million single-income households, 75% headed by women, for whom the BBC is a lifeline

The Cairncross Review has now reported on the tough question of “how to sustain production and distribution of high quality journalism in a rapidly changing technology environment”. New codes of conduct for the platforms and publishers are the Review’s key policy recommendation.

In particular, the Review addresses the sustainability of public interest, including local, journalism. This news is important for democracy, but expensive to do well, not particularly popular and most sabotaged by an online ecosystem that rewards traffic over quality.

This is a landmark public intervention, but implementation will be critical, even if there is no silver bullet – platforms, publishers and citizens need to rise to the challenge.

The ban on pre-9pm TV ads for HFSS (high in fat, salt or sugar) products being considered by the Government would not play a constructive or quantifiable role in reversing the UK’s rising childhood obesity rates. 

The ban on HFSS product ads since 2008 around children’s programming has not impeded the inexorable rise of childhood obesity. In 2010, Ofcom termed an HFSS watershed ban ‘disproportionate’ and ‘ineffective’. 

In 2018, a watershed ban would be even less effective. Children’s linear broadcast TV viewing is down by half since 2010, mainly to YouTube’s advantage, which benefits from light-touch HFSS regulation.
 

Although launched with an array of public service goals in mind, local TV’s flawed design has created a sector struggling to live up to its optimistic ambitions. 

Five years and £37 million of licence fee monies later, it is unclear what public service contributions are being made, or whether the scheme has provided value-for-money. A wholesale review of the sector is urgently needed.

The vision of a “thriving and sustainable” sector has fallen flat. Most licences remain loss-making, with doubts as to their long-term viability. Those operating low-cost models seem best placed to survive.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has provisionally found that Fox’s acquisition of Sky is against the public interest on media plurality grounds, although it could proceed with an appropriate remedy

The CMA found the merger would give the Murdoch Family Trust (MFT) and family members “too much influence over public opinion and the political agenda”

The CMA now enters the challenging remedies phase. Fox could offer an Editorial Board for Sky News pending finalisation of Disney-Fox (by 2019). Third parties seem likely to continue to seek to prohibit the merger

21CF’s bid for 100% ownership of Sky has been referred for a Phase 2 investigation to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which will decide by 6 March 2018

Third parties Avaaz and Ed Miliband MP complain of the influence of the Murdoch Family Trust (MFT) and family members over the UK’s news agenda and political process 

A remedy could insulate Sky News from this influence. The offer of a Sky News Editorial Board at Phase 1 was refused. Third parties will ensure the debate in Phase 2 is very lively

Secretary of State (SoS) Karen Bradley has made an initial decision to refer 21CF’s bid for Sky to the Competition Markets Authority (CMA) for a detailed consideration of media plurality concerns, to be finalised in the near future

The issue at hand is the potential increase in the influence of the members of the Murdoch Family Trust (MFT) over the UK’s news agenda and political process. The SoS rejected the remedy for Sky News brokered by Ofcom

Ofcom’s non-negative decision on the fitness and propriety of 21CF to hold Sky’s broadcast licences cleared another hurdle in the event the merger is finally accepted