Unintended consequences of set top boxes and catch up TV

Former VLV Trustee Patrick McIntosh looks at the possible consequences the growth of TV, radio and online platforms will have on the future of public service broadcasting. 


Who watches live TV any more, especially if you’re young, mobile and connected?

The increased cynicism around fake news and the plethora of news from free newspapers to TV, radio and online platforms suggests to me that there will be an increasing reluctance to justify the TV Licence Fee when there are so many other ways to consume media content. In addition, of course, many people are now paying other subscriptions to all sorts of outlets.

The increased use of Freeview boxes, let alone Sky boxes and the evolution of the iPlayer, alongside ITV‘s Hub and everybody’s ability to skip the adverts to watch content uninterrupted must mean that both the Licence Fee and the advertising model that funds the commercial public service broadcasters is under severe threat of collapse.

The digital age has demonstrated how quickly human behaviour changes, adapts and, most importantly, takes advantage of other forms of entertainment communication and relaxation. We must recognise this trend is likely to impact on public service broadcasting. I would suggest the trends identified will dramatically affect the ability of the funding models currently in place to survive beyond the next Charter review.

I would also suggest that the challenge for central Government to raise sufficient taxation to meet the spending promises made to a demographically ageing population and falling birth rate will increasingly politicise the current funding arrangements.

To make life easier for politicians it is entirely probable that funding will be devolved to independent organisations who can then set their revenue arrangements to suit evolving human trends and the economics around media, entertainment and news etc.

It will be very interesting to see how the BBC decides to deal with free Licences for those over 75, especially since they are the greatest consumers of BBC content.I do not have a crystal ball and I have no idea how these matters will play out, but I most sincerely know that the only organisation which is likely to campaign to preserve high quality, accessible, cost-efficient public service broadcasting is the VLV. Unless we are all prepared to support this vital organisation, campaign with it and financially support it, UK society will be a much poorer place.

Patrick McIntosh is cycling from the UK to Japan to raise funds for charities, including VLV, to coincide with the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Help support him by donating online: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/pmvlv 

Published by: VLV

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