U.K. Regulator May Require ITV, Channel 5 to Increase Original, News Output

itv logo - H 2012

The channels will "continue to invest in original U.K. content" that can be sold globally, the British media secretary says in promising a renewal of their TV licenses.

LONDON - U.K. commercial TV networks ITV and Channel 5 may be asked to expand public service broadcasting commitments via an increase in news and original programming.

The news came Wednesday as Maria Miller, the U.K. Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, said that she will not block the renewal of the TV companies' broadcast licenses. Both firms currently have licenses through 2014 and are now set to get a 10-year renewal as is customary for the U.K.

They will have to "maintain, or even increase, the current level of public service requirements, such as the amount of news or original content," Miller said without providing further details. "In these tough economic times, my decision will give the current license holders - multi-million pound organizations – the security they need to grow and invest."

ITV has already focused on original content, announcing commissions of around 60 shows for 2013. Channel 5, owned by businessman Richard Desmond's Northern & Shell, has committed to boosting original U.K. children's content to at least 600 hours a year.

"The U.K. is in a global race, and the TV programs produced for [the license holders] are exported around the world," Miller said. "Renewing the licenses will ensure the holders can continue to invest in original U.K. content." The renewal will also provide "significant value to the creative industries," a statement said, highlighting that the two TV firms invest around $1.3 billion (£800 million) a year into original content.
U.K. media regulator Ofcom will now renegotiate the details of the license renewals. Broadcasters currently pay a nominal fee of $16,000 (£10,000) for each license. Ofcom wants to review the amounts and publish its suggestions in the summer.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai