U.K. b'casters spend less on homegrown fare

Ofcom also shows drop in local programming on PSBs

LONDON -- The quintet of main terrestrial television broadcasters have slashed spending on original homegrown fare by 15% in the past four years, a report published Tuesday shows.

The research, laid out by media watchdog Ofcom in its annual Public Service Broadcasting Report, shows that spending hit £2.6 billion ($4.3 billion) last year, down from £3 billion ($5 billion) in 2004.

The figures also indicate a 3% decline in the total hours of U.K.-generated programming aired on the five main PSBs -- BBC1, BBC2, ITV1, Channel 4 and Five -- between 2004 and 2008. The hours fell to 33,177 hours a year.

And the figures indicated that children's programming has felt the brunt of the decline. Cash spent by the commercial PSBs for kids' fare plummeted 70%, falling to a paltry £11 million ($18 million) in 2008 from $42 million ($69 million) four years previously.

At pubcaster BBC, Ofcom said spending on children's output dropped by a fifth, from £97 million ($160 million) in 2004 to £77 million ($127 million) last year.

Ofcom also noted that money spent on U.K. network news and current affairs fell from £289 million ($476 million) to £250 million ($412 million).

But despite all the cost cuts and financial uncertainty, Ofcom said that viewers appreciate the output of the PSB channels more in the last two years than before.

"This is against the backdrop of a rapidly changing U.K. television market, including the continuing growth of multichannel and pay TV, and nonlinear viewing such as digital video recorders, iPlayer and video on demand service," the report noted.