Programme Schedule Essay
It should be noted that although I have used Sky One as an example of a typical evenings viewing on Sky, this ignores the other channels available through the satellite broadcaster. But in doing so I am illustrating the channels provision in terms of target audience, rejection of a public service ethos (to educate, inform and entertain), and its ability to house hour after hour of populist programming on one channel (complimenting Sky One is a mass of channels providing a wide range of programming (see Sky World and Family Pack, appendix 2)).
What is obvious from this comparison is that the public service broadcasters are providing a schedule which caters for the widest possible audience, within the structure of two channels (BBC1/BBC2/RTE1/N2). There is the argument that, instead of attempting to provide an output representative of the whole of its audience, which on the face of it seems impossible, it should specialise into more defined areas.
Some complain that money being spent on paying comedians for programmes such as `Have I Got News For You` (Friday 21:00, BBC), could be better spent on this specialisation, however those arguments often come down to ones particular taste, rather than any informed argument. What is it that public service broadcasters provide, which are deemed in the `public interest`, that those without such a remit fail to provide? It can surely not, as outlined previously be choice.
Diversity, a term often associated with public service broadcasters, is no longer solely applicable to the latter as diverseness is arguably a product of greater choice. It could be argued however that the choice and diversity available from terrestrial public service broadcasters is of a higher quality and is therefore of greater value to an interested audience. The pluralistic nature of public service broadcasting requires that they take into account the sociocultural segmentation of society, but this is often difficult because of the limited terrestrial channel space available.
However, what it does do is provide a common domain, arguably important in the context of social interaction. The ability of the audience to discuss for example, the previous night’s episode of Eastenders (BBC1) in the playground or at work should not be underestimated. It could be argued that a wider range of viewing could bring a greater level of social ideas and concepts, yet this ignores the `information rich/information poor` argument, and the resulting divide which has yet to be addressed.
The digression by both RTE and the BBC into digital media does not, in the current climate, resolve the problem of catering for such a large audience on a limited broadcasting frequency, simply because digital television is not widespread enough at this time. The conundrum for both organisations therefore, is that in order that they become both more diverse and competitive, their energies must go into the creation and promotion of their digital services so as to have a foothold in the future of digital broadcasting.
And here lies the rub, At the moment there does not exist a platform solely intended for the broadcast of the BBC’s digital programmes. It is available through NTL, Sky and ITV Digital, and therefore, the BBC is indirectly promoting the formats that have reduced their audience share and contributed to calls for its privatisation. The argument hinges on how the PSB’s intend to supply their digital services in the future. They may provide a set-top box through which their channels can be received, or fund their place on the current EPG (Electronic Programme Guide), available through SkyDigital.
RTE will begin broadcasting on the SkyDigital platform from April 2002, which has emphasised its intention to fulfil its public service remit by extending its audience reach to as many parts of Ireland as possible. However both NTL and Chorus, (cable companies operating in Ireland) have complained that RTE paid a reported i?? 6 million for its inclusion on the SkyGuide EPG (Electronic Programme Guide), whereas RTE is hosted for free, and importantly, compulsorily by the two cable operators.
If Chorus Digital were to pull the plug on RTE, the low subscription rate would not cause significant damage to the public service broadcaster. However, NTL, who have a much higher subscription, and therefore attract more advertising, offers a greater problem. If NTL removed RTE from its output, advertising revenues would fall dramatically, indeed, it has already fallen in 2001 by i?? 12 million; 15. 5 million less than projected for 2002 and RTE would inevitably become bankrupt. But in doing so, NTL would almost certainly have its licence revoked, which it would appear, provides the greatest chance of survival for RTE.
As I have discussed earlier, the introduction of satellite broadcasting into the UK and Ireland has had a detrimental impact upon the public service broadcasters viewing figures. The information below illustrates the year-on-year increase and uptake of cable and satellite subscription, paralleled with a year-on-year decrease in the BBC’s viewing figures. RTE has been grouped in the same category as cable and satellite, however RTE would represent only a fraction of the increase. (NB. Shares before 1996 have been rounded to nearest whole number)
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 7 July 2017
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