News about our campaign is reaching people across the country.
Silver Voices, an over 60s campaign group and founding member of the Broadcast 2040+ campaign, has published its landmark report.
You can read the full report here.
Coalition grows to 30 members after record breaking Eurovision and coronation viewing figures
Industry and Regulatory Updates
Age UK have published a report into the impact of the cost-of-living crisis for older people, providing recommendations to government on more they can be doing to support. The report covers the impact of increase in energy bills, mortgage rates and the fear of going into debt. It highlights how 2 in 5 of over 50s are spending less money on food and other essentials, and that 68% of people aged 70 and over have experienced an increase in their cost of living compared to one month ago.
Public Accounts Committee report into the BBC - Public Accounts Committee BBC Report March 2023
The committee found that as of September 2022, 88% of the time that BBC audiences spent with its services was through traditional television and radio broadcasting. To continue the BBC’s commitment to its universal service obligation, it must not move too quickly towards digital only, leaving behind those with poor access to digital services.
National Audit Office: A digital BBC: A digital BBC (nao.org.uk)
Among its conclusions, this report found that “The BBC needs to balance its greater emphasis on digital and on-demand viewing with the fact that most of its audiences still access it through traditional broadcasting. As of September 2022, 88% of the time that BBC audiences spent with its services was through traditional television and radio broadcasting.” Further, it outlines that “in 2021-22, 73% of UK adults (in households with a TV) still watched BBC TV on average per week, down from 76% in 2020-21. The highest proportions of people watching linear broadcast television are those aged 55 and over (91% in 2021-22) and adults who are disabled (81% in 2021-22). In consequence, as the BBC invests in digital products, to serve all its audiences it still needs to maintain its traditional broadcasting presence.”
Enders Analysis Report: Leading the UK into digital: DTT switch-off, but when? | Enders Analysis
Enders Analysis’ report highlights that “By 2034, at the current migration rate, nearly 20 billion hours of TV will be viewed in DTT homes—just 20% less than today—with over 80% of that being to adults over 55.”
Ofcom Report: Ofcom Annual Report on the BBC 2021-22
Each year, Ofcom publishes a report on the BBC’s performance. This is the fifth Annual Report on the BBC and overall, Ofcom finds that the BBC continues to deliver its remit. However, Ofcom identifies that audiences in lower socio-economic groups and disabled audiences are less satisfied with the BBC. Ofcom outlines that it will launch a thematic review on how the BBC connects with audiences in lower socio-economic groups. It outlines: “The BBC’s mission is to serve all audiences. Yet we have consistently found that some audience groups are less engaged and less satisfied with the BBC. In particular we have found that audiences in lower socio-economic groups, and disabled audiences, are less satisfied. Those classified as falling within lower socio-economic groups represent almost a quarter of the UK population and are more likely to be older, unemployed, retired on a state pension or disabled.” These audiences have a greater reliance on traditional broadcast services.
Ofcom outlines its preliminary view on WRC23 agenda item 1.5, which concerns the review of frequencies currently used by digital terrestrial television. In this document, Ofcom outlines that “our preliminary view is that “No Change” would meet the UKs interests recognising our national usage of the band today. On this basis Ofcom has supported that a “No Change” position is fully considered in the 'Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology and CEPT (European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations) discussions. This would retain the primary broadcasting allocation and footnote recognition for PMSE (programme-making and special events), as the identified harmonisation for the band.”
Sir Peter Bazalgette delivered the Jocelyn Hay Lecture 2022. In it he said “I think we should definitely keep DTT, transmitting digital TV to our aerials free, for the foreseeable future. It’s a matter of national resilience…The international infrastructure of our digital age is one of its greatest boons, but also one of its greatest vulnerabilities. It would be a foolish government indeed that surrendered an alternative information network.”
Our campaign to protect Freeview and radio beyond 2040 featured in the Rural Services Network’s Spotlight series which goes to over 24,000 members.
The report highlighted the lack of progress being made in both areas, with only 21% of the 814 respondents saying they have a reliable mobile signal in all locations, and a third stating they have very limited or no signal. It is clear that for those with limited connectivity, broadcast services still remain the most viable option to access entertainment and news
Ofcom recently produced an update on its small-scale DAB radio licensing programme. This ongoing initiative involves issuing new licences for a period of seven years from the start of broadcasting, and there is an option for a five-year renewal. This indicates a strong and continuous demand for broadcast radio licences that will extend well into the late 2030s.
This is an issue that’s rising up the political agenda, for example:
On Tuesday 21st November 2023, the Media Bill had its 2nd Reading in the House of Commons. The event saw MPs discuss the premise of the Bill and raise their concerns about issues that that may not be covered within the Bill.
It was great to see Douglas Ross MP’s comments in the debate noting the need for the Bill to protect Freeview TV beyond 2034 – and to have the Culture Secretary, Rt Hon Lucy Frazer MP respond on the floor of the House. Frazer said she appreciates the discussion on universal television access, highlighting the Bill's focus on modernising the listed events regime and supporting TV and radio in the evolving technological landscape.
Shadow Minister for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Stephanie Peacock's MP closing remarks referred to the Broadcast 2040+ campaign. She outlined that traditional TV must be protected to support vulnerable groups. Closing the debate, Sir John Whittingdale MP, Minister for Department for Culture, Media and Sport said, ‘The government will not consider switching off digital terrestrial TV unless we had reached the point where the overwhelming majority were no longer using it to access TV’.
The term ‘overwhelming majority’ went much further than we’ve heard from the government before and is in direct response to the campaign’s pressure and efforts. The campaign is continuing to engage with government, opposition and a breadth of MPs to ensure the Bill protects broadcast TV and radio services beyond 2040.
Stephanie Peacock MP (Shadow Minister for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport): “In the light of changing viewing patterns, it is sensible to provide PSBs with some flexibility to meet their remit through on demand programming, but the Broadcast 2040+ campaign and others have been clear that public service content on linear television must still be protected and maintained."
Douglas Ross MP: “She will know that, in our report on public broadcasting, we recommended that the Government provide urgent assurances on maintaining Freeview beyond 2034. That chimes very much with her speech to the Royal Television Society, in which she said: “We want terrestrial television to remain accessible for the foreseeable future.” Does she anticipate an opportunity in this Bill to ensure we have that guarantee beyond 2034?”
Sir John Whittingdale MP (Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure): “Several Members asked whether the Government can make a commitment to the continuation of Freeview beyond 2034. The Government would not consider switching off digital terrestrial television unless we had reached the point where the overwhelming majority were no longer using it to access TV. We are very conscious of that group in the population who still rely on traditional Freeview, and that will be in our thoughts.
Speaking at the Royal Television Society conference in Cambridge in September 2023, Secretary of State Lucy Frazer said “consuming TV should not come at the expense of those who still enjoy terrestrial television.”
“Is it fair to suggest there might be a discussion about maintaining the more traditional terrestrial services for quite some time?”
Is it a concern of Ofcom’s that infrastructure issues might be alienating issues if we are moving to a digital broadcasting landscape, both in terms of radio and but also smart TVs and online streaming?”
Unlike internet streaming services terrestrial TV doesn’t require an internet connection or rely on a monthly subscription. This type of content is therefore primarily relied upon by those who are already marginalised in society: people on the lowest incomes, older citizens, and those in isolated areas.
Ofcom’s News Consumption in the UK 2022/23 report has revealed that broadcast continues to be the most used platform for consuming news, reaching 70% of all adults in the UK. Of these individuals, around two in five, (42%) use broadcast TV only, and a further 28% use both broadcast TV and BVoD. This figure rises to a staggering 95% for adults over the age of 75, showing how important these services continue to be to older people.
In answer to a written question from Selaine Saxby MP on the potential impact of the Media Bill on access to digital terrestrial television, Minister for Media, Tourism and Creative Industries, John Whittingdale said “the Government remains committed to the future of digital terrestrial television” and that they recognise that “millions of households across the UK rely on DTT, particularly rural communities and older people”.
The Rural Coalition, an alliance of thirteen national organisations that champion a living, working countryside, has set out an urgent appeal for all political parties to empower rural areas in election manifestos to improve the prospects and opportunities for rural businesses and communities.
The roadmap, ‘A better future for rural England: An opportunity for change’, sets out nine policy principles to address the structural inequalities and weaknesses facing rural areas and the people who live and work in rural England. This includes a key ask on rural connectivity.