RSN joins calls to protect broadcast services ahead of second reading of government’s Media Bill

The government’s proposed Media Bill will receive its Second reading in the House of Commons today (Tuesday 21 November 2023).  The Bill represents the biggest update to media regulation in a generation and will shape the future of TV and radio services for years to come.

However, under the current government policy, traditional broadcast services are only guaranteed until 2030.  After that, they will become redundant, replaced by services provided through a broadband connection. 

Campaign group Broadcast 2040+ is now calling on MPs to speak against the changes during today’s reading and to make the case for their rural constituents. 

The coalition, of which RSN is a member, says:

“tens of millions of people across the country rely on them every day. We are campaigning for a commitment from the UK Government that broadcast TV and radio services will be available to everyone until 2040 and beyond. The Media Bill is the ideal opportunity to guarantee these protections.”

Previously the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Lucy Frazer has stated that the government will not ‘pull the rug from under the devoted audiences of Freeview channels’ and that they ‘want terrestrial television to remain accessible for the foreseeable future’.  Meanwhile, Ofcom is currently undertaking a review into the ‘Future of TV Distribution’ which will influence the longevity of broadcast TV in the UK.   However, the BBC’s Director General, Tim Davie, has called for a move away from broadcast services, arguing that “a switch off of broadcast will and should happen over time, and we should be active in planning for it.”

But RSN Chief Executive, Kerry Booth, says it is crucial government listens to the public:

“Digital terrestrial radio and television, which must of us know as Freeview, are lifelines for people living in rural areas.  We all know that rural connectivity is, at best, poor for many areas and, at worst, non-existent.  Removing the traditional services in just seven years times will be disastrous for these communities, who are already vulnerable and isolated due to government cuts in things like public transport.

“Once again this is silo working within government.  We need reliable, stable and fast broadband connections in ALL rural areas before we can even start talking about turning off traditional services.  I urge the government to consider this and all rural MPs to speak up for the communities they serve.”

A recent report by coalition member Silver Voices, found that:

  • Over 80% of respondents believe broadcast TV and radio should be protected well beyond 2040, with respondents’ answers ranging between 2051 and 2079. This is far in advance of the UK Government’s current commitment of 2034.
  • Almost three-quarters (74%) said that partial or total removal of broadcast services in the future risks leaving behind significant portions of the population.
  • The cost of online subscriptions (53%) and struggling to afford broadband bills (46%) in the next 15 years were cited as the top barriers to moving to online-only TV and radio services.
  • Just over 2 in 3 (67%) respondents said they are worried that large sections of the population would be left behind if broadcast TV and radio were not protected, citing older generations, disabled people, and those living in rural areas as most vulnerable to future changes.
  • 81% said that universal access to public service content should be protected by the law, regardless of cost, tech ability, or geographic location.

You can read the Silver Voices report Safeguarding Universality: The Future of Broadcast TV and Radio here.


Sign up to our newsletter to receive all the latest news and updates.