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UK News

Moving religious programmes online part of UK broadcasting revamp proposals

by Tola Mbakwe

Broadcasters could have the option to move religious programming from TV to their digital platforms.  It's part of the UK Government's broadcasting white paper published on Thursday. 

Under the proposals, the UK's public service broadcasters (PBS) BBC, ITV, STV, Channel 4, S4C and Channel 5 would have "greater flexibility" in how people can access their public service content, which include shows with "leisure interests" like cooking and gardening, as well as religious programming. 

The government said in a statement: "PSBs are required through a quota system to broadcast a minimum amount and variety of public service content (for example, programmes made outside of London), but they currently only get credit for this if they show it on their main linear channel (so in the case of ITV, on ITV1). 

"The government will give PSBs greater flexibility to meet their obligations, including reaching audiences by delivering content on a wider range of services including via on-demand platforms."

Roger Bolton, a Christian and long-time BBC presenter and producer, is not convinced this is the right course of action. He argues that a broadcaster only allowing a religious programme on a digital platform would stifle accessibility to a wide audience.

He told Premier Christian News: "We should decide as a country, what are the things we should make a real effort to ensure people not only have access to, but are likely to consume?
"I think if you take the view that we've got to make an effort to educate people, then you've got to say to broadcasters, it's your decision about how you do it. But broadly… we want to make sure that you give the same resources to so called minority programmes as you do majorities.
"And we want to make sure you make every effort possible to ensure that the widest range of public knows about them and can access them."

Bolton also said the quality of religious programming needs to be addressed. 

"The problem also is the nature of people commission things," he claimed. "They tend to be younger, they tend to be metropolitan, they are very much in touch with the latest developments, but they're also often not in touch with different communities, different parts of the country and older people. And so they are less perhaps aware of the importance of faith in their commissioning."

The government said the proposals will make it a legal requirement that PSB content is always available and easy to find for UK audiences on "connected devices and major online platforms, including on smart TVs, set-top boxes and streaming sticks."

Other plans in the white paper include privatising Channel 4 and giving media watchdog Ofcom new powers to regulate the likes of YouTube and Netflix.

Listen to Premier's interview with Roger Bolton here: 

 

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