A new report by over-60s advocacy group Silver Voices reveals strong support amongst the UK public for broadcast TV and radio services to be protected until well beyond 2040. Older viewers and listeners fear being left behind by a broadcast switch-off.
The report says older viewers and listeners are concerned about the impact of any reduction of broadcast services, especially due to lack of high-quality broadband. Its author, Silver Voices, together with its fellow Broadcast 2040+ coalition partners, are calling on the UK government to listen to TV viewers and radio listeners and act now to protect broadcast services beyond the current commitment of 2030s.
The report, called ‘Safeguarding Universality: The Future of Broadcast TV and Radio’ results from a survey of 4,000+ representative consumers in the UK during June 2023. They were contacted by telephone and online. It also used in-depth interviews and focus groups with 55 participants.
The report finds that over 80% of respondents believe broadcast TV and radio should be protected well beyond 2040 – to at least 2051. “This is far in advance of the UK Government's current commitment to protect these services until 2034,” the organisation notes.
74% of respondents believe that the partial or total removal of broadcast services in the future risks leaving behind significant portions of the population, with 46% concerned about the potential impact of digital-only services on their broadband bills.
The report also analysed the views of those over the age of 60, who were most concerned about potential exclusion caused by any reduction of broadcast services. This includes being left behind due to a lack of access to broadband services (84%) and being less technically able than the rest of the population (70%).
Over 90% of respondents aged over-60 believe that any future legislation should include a commitment to protect TV and radio broadcast services.
The report includes five recommendations to secure these services:
- Government provides a clear commitment to the long-term protection of broadcast services including a date well beyond current commitments.
- Government ensures that TV and radio broadcasting, and the broad range of services delivered through it, are protected for the long-term within any ongoing and future legislation.
- The spectrum used by broadcast TV is protected at the World Radiocommunication Conference 2023 (WRC23) and at future international spectrum conferences.
- There are ongoing requirements for Public Service Broadcasters (PSBs) to continue to support universal broadcast services and the rich public service content delivered through them, including through a commitment within the next BBC Charter period.
- The voices of the listeners and viewers, and in particular those groups most heavily reliant on broadcast services, are put at the centre of the debate, and any decision-making, by government or Ofcom (the UK’s sector regulator).
Dennis Reed, Director at Silver Voices says: “This report highlights an incredibly important issue that many of our members are worried about – the potential switch-off of broadcast TV and radio. The removal of broadcast services risks isolating our members further and no one should be left behind, ignored, or neglected.
“The government must step up and take action – including by implementing the recommendations we have set out today – to protect the future of these vital services. These services are not only an essential national asset, but something millions of older and vulnerable people across the country rely on day-in, day-out.