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Public service broadcasting in the UK includes not only the output of the BBC, but also the programming broadcast on Channel 3 (licensed to ITV and its regional subsidiaries), Channel 4, Channel 5 and the Welsh-language channel S4C. The public service broadcasters (PSBs) have a large market share of television audiences and studies have shown that viewers value them highly. However, they also face challenges. These include changing viewing habits because of increased competition from subscription video-on-demand services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.

The BBC has recently faced criticism for alleged bias in its journalism and there has been speculation about the long-term future of its funding model. On 5 February 2020, the Government launched a consultation on decriminalising non-payment of the TV licence fee. The BBC has estimated that this could cost it £200 million a year in lost revenue.

The creative industries are a significant contributor to the UK economy. In 2018, they contributed £111.7 billion in gross value added (GVA) to the UK economy. Of that figure, £20.8 billion was contributed by the film, television and radio sector. The creative industries are also a major employer. In 2018, they employed just over 2 million people, with 245,000 employed specifically in the film, TV and radio sectors.

In November 2019, the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee published its report, Public Service Broadcasting: As Vital As Ever. It concluded that the UK’s PSBs had a central role in providing investment to the wider economy and creative sector. The committee described the UK’s film and television production sector as a “national success story”. The PSBs significantly contributed to its “mixed ecology”—a “mutually reinforcing” system of specialist skills, production companies, and broadcasters.

A 2015 study of the BBC’s impact on the creative sector concluded that it invested £3.7 billion of its income directly into the creative sector. However, there have also been concerns that the BBC’s activities could crowd out commercial competitors.


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