U.K. PSB Bosses Give Their Verdict on Future of the Industry

The heads of Britain’s four main public service broadcasters gave their verdicts on the current industry climate and the future of PSBs at the Deloitte and Enders Media and Telecoms conference in London on Thursday afternoon.

The BBC’s director general Tim Davie, ITV CEO Carolyn McCall, Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon and Maria Kyriacou, Paramount Global’s president of international broadcast and studios (which oversees Channel 5), spoke on a variety of topics including the Media Bill, digital supremacy and even slug sex.

Read on for some more highlights from the panel:

Tim Davie, BBC

“I think we now have cast iron evidence that, far from simply managing decline in the digital age, this is a time when PSB is not only needed more than ever, but, with the right support, can and should thrive.”

“We face a global crisis on our watch… Which in turn is an opportunity for the UK and PSBs. Depressingly, only 20% of people globally now live in what are considered to be truly free countries – down by half in the last decade. Journalism is now blocked in over 70% of countries. Free, fearless, verified reporting has never been more critical.”

“As a gloriously restrained and sometimes cynical nation we can struggle to champion success at times, but surely we can permit ourselves a little humble swagger when it comes to what has been created here – including by many in this room.”

[On the proposed government Media Bill] “I don’t think the interventions I’m looking for are protections against market failure… I don’t want protection for a market failure BBC. That would be a failure in itself. I want protection and I want intervention for a growing U.K. creative economy.”

[After showing a clip of some slugs looking for a mate from episode 2 of “Wild Isles”] “That’s as much as I can show pre-watershed as it gets steamy. And yes, I did get an email expressing outrage at the ‘horrifying and explicit’ sex on our airwaves.”

Carolyn McCall, ITV

“Last year ITV broadcast over 900 of the 1000 most watched commercial shows. If you include the BBC, we broadcast 568 of the top 1000 shows. And if you include Netflix, Disney and the other streamers, ITV still delivered 540 of the 1000 most watched shows.”

“As well as regional news, we also make scripted programmes by, for and about the U.K.’s nations, regions and communities. Reflecting the diversity – in every sense – of modern Britain. Our shows help promote understanding of social change.”

“For ITV, being a commercial PSB means being enduring and financially successful in this changing media landscape and we believe the Media Bill – if implemented well – will ensure a thriving PSB ecology. The need is urgent and we would encourage the Government to ensure the Bill becomes law as soon as possible.”

“[ITVX] is actually helping us to retain viewers right across the board. And I think the whole strategy is about ensuring our viewers are able to get the breadth of choice, the exclusivity for a period of time, from ITV rather than going elsewhere to get it. For the first time ever, 16-34s, over half that audience watched ‘Love Island’ on ITVX than ITV2. We don’t mind as long as we get the total viewers.”

Alex Mahon, Channel 4

“If you want to understand how important the role video plays in young people’s lives is, start with the fact that half Gen Z’s waking hours are spent looking at a screen – and, typically more than one screen.”

“Young people don’t come to us – as broadcasters – first. So we need to go where they are with our content.”

“Thinking about content that gets to Gen Z also extends to pornography. We cannot ignore the reality that one in 10 of the U.K.’s young has seen porn by the time they are nine years old and 42% of young people say they believe girls enjoy physically aggressive sex. Public service media must address this and let young people see portrayals of healthy relationships, consent, and safe sex. Some think that the internet means PSB content isn’t needed in this area anymore – I say it’s quite the opposite.”

Maria Kyriacou, Paramount Global

“We are the only PSB owned by a global media company and as a consequence we are the only one that has a foothold in all the major audience touchpoints: free linear, AVOD, paid linear, streaming, SVOD, FAST channels and even cinema.”

“Across Paramount Global we are investing more in the U.K. than at any other time with movies such as the latest ‘Mission Impossible’ through to our upcoming Paramount+ dramatization of ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ starring Ewan McGregor which is filming here in the U.K. this very moment. We’re proud to be investing significantly in the U.K.’s world beating production sector and to be giving our British creatives a global platform.

“When a company like mine says it’s global – because that’s the direction the business is going – that word ‘global’ means something. It means being French in France, being Italian in Italy and British in Britain. That is understood across the whole of the company I work for.”

“There is no success that comes from enforcing something that audiences do not want to watch. What audiences want, and especially in this country because we’ve done such a brilliant job with such fantastic, phenomenal talent, is their own stories, their own faces, their own accents. That’s what they want. And if you want to be in this global business you have to embrace that.”

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