A senior Sky executive has called for a radical overhaul of broadcast regulation to adapt to the streaming age as he took a swipe at ITV’s “anachronistic” business model.
David Wheeldon, Sky’s group director of policy and public affairs, said regulator Ofcom’s approach was “not particularly radical” and would not help public service broadcasters fulfil their obligation to viewers.
Wheeldon argued that the media watchdog should instead introduce a new framework that would allow companies such as Sky to play a public service role.
“We should be harnessing competition and moving towards a regime that is open to contributions to public value from everyone,” he said in a speech in London today.
The Sky exec also took aim at the business model of commercial public service broadcasters such as ITV, arguing that state intervention in profit-driven firms made little sense in the modern market.
“In this day and age, when we’re all producing this wide variety of content with public value, commercial public service broadcasters do seem a bit of an anachronism,” he said.
The comments came as the industry gears up for Ofcom’s next review of the UK’s public service broadcasters, which is due to be published early next year.
Broadcasters have called for a revamp of current media regulations to bring them up to date with the rise of streaming, though they have disagreed over what the new rules should look like.
BBC director of policy Clare Sumner today echoed calls for a radical change, arguing the current framework was “stuck in the past”.
The BBC has recently secured a number of concessions to help it take on streaming giants such as Netflix, including extending the time limit on iPlayer shows from 30 days to 12 months.
But Sumner said that Ofcom took a year to pass the iPlayer changes, and called for greater speed and flexibility from regulators to enable the taxpayer-funded corporation to keep up with competition.
Sumner also rebuffed the suggestion that commercial broadcasters such as Sky and Netflix serve a public service function.
“Netflix and others will have very diverse content and will have great stories to tell,” she said. “But I think the question is around the depth of that content offer and the links back to the British production sector and the talent.”
Ofcom’s director of content policy Siobhan Walsh acknowledged that currently regulation was “very dated” and said the watchdog’s review would aim to build flexibility into the system, including by considering the changing definition of public service broadcasting.