Broadcast news spend drops by £38m

Investment in public service broadcasting of news and current affairs across the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five fell by 13.5 percent in the last four years, according to a new Ofcom report.

Between 2004 and 2008 overall public service broadcast spend on UK network news and current affairs fell from £289m to £250m last year.

Publishing its third annual PSB report, Ofcom said overall investment in nations and regions news across channel 3 licensees – ITV, STV in Scotland and UTV in Northern Ireland – had dropped by 25 percent from £162 million in 2005 to £121 million in 2008.

BBC’nations and regions spend also declined by 15 percent from £220 million in 2005 to £186 million in 2008.

Ofcom said the total hours of nations and regions news broadcast across Channel 3 licensees fell across the UK by almost ten percent between 2004 and 2008.

In contrast, the BBC managed to increase its output marginally during this period, up from 4,742 to 4,945 hours a year.

National news was less prevalent across the whole day, Ofcom found, but output at peaktime increased in 2008 – largely as a result of ITV1 reintroducing News At Ten.

Despite this move, ITV1 still suffered the worst drop in viewing of its national news – losing over 21 percent of viewers in four years. Overall viewing of national news on the five main channels was down nine percent on 2004 figures.

Audiences of nations and regions news were also in decline. With the exception of Northern Ireland, every BBC region lost viewers with their overall share of viewing down from 30 percent in 2004 to 28 percent last year.

Ofcom found that over 67 percent of viewers considered news programmes to be “trustworthy” last year, a five per cent increase from 2006.

The report revealed the five main PSBs have spent nearly 15 percent less on original UK programmes over the last four years, down from nearly £3bn spent in 2004 to £2.6bn in 2008.

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