Ofcom CEO Ed Richards has described the media regulator's plans for a public service publisher (PSP)—a publicly funded new media entity competing against the BBC and Channel 4 in digital broadcasting and on-demand markets—as a key part of his "personal crusade" in ensuring media plurality.
Richards first proposed the PSP while reviewing the future for public service broadcasting two years ago. Earlier this year he said the PSP would be needed as "hundreds of millions of pounds" were due to "seep out of public service funding" for commercial television in an all-digital environment.
In a series of national newspaper interviews this week, Richards reiterated the need for a PSP—which could have an annual budget of £300m a year—and emphasised the model would now have more of a new media focus. Ofcom will publish a consultation paper on the PSP in 2007. In January the Commons culture, media and sport select committee will probe the PSP concept as part of its inquiry into the "prospects for maintaining plurality in public service broadcasting in the digital age".
"The personal crusade that I do have is that the existing model for public service broadcasting is ending and it will have eroded dramatically by the time the analogue signal is switched off," Richards told The Times.
Richards suggested in an interview with the Financial Times that content regulations—which only cover scheduled TV programmes—are "inherently unstable" in an emerging world of on-demand media consumption. "As you go forward, this is an issue that society is going to have to come to terms with and we will be at the forefront of that debate." Richards said self or co-regulation was the preferred solution for internet-delivered content—rather than putting Ofcom's "big boots on" he wanted to "tiptoe" in nascent markets.
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