Freeview and Digital UK's pop-up conference this week will highlight how the debate over the future of public service broadcasting needs to show ambition in the face of a revolutionary moment in the media industry.
The special Spring Edition of Freeview and Digital UK's Outside the box has a compelling line-up of speakers challenging normal reactions to reviews of public service broadcasting and rejecting some of the perceived wisdom of the streaming era.
Rather than accept the idea that a period in which audience habits are changing means that public service broadcasting is becoming less relevant and of less value, OTB’s rumbustious line-up will be advocating a think-big, act-big response to the challenges of the time.
The Spring OTB will be held over three days, Tuesday 18th to Thursday 20th May, with bite-sized 75-minute sessions between 12 noon and 1.15pm.
The theme will be set by an opening session tomorrow with an incredibly stimulating discussion between Roly Keating, former controller of BBC Two and head of the British Library and the iconoclastic economist Mariana Mazzucato, professor in the Economics of Innovation and Public Value at UCL.
Prof Mazzucato wants to stand up to the normal reaction of “what can we save” from PSB at a time of domination by streamers to say that this is a moment for bold industrial strategy, public-service ambition and innovation that will create ever greater opportunities for private business and build a legacy for UK citizens, society and democracy for years to come.
The conversation will provide a template for the rest of the conference to set the boundaries of aspiration for PSBs in the UK and beyond. How will television contribute to Building Back Better and Levelling Up? How can the industry demonstrate to the Treasury that now is the time for investment by the public purse, not cutbacks? How can we try to measure the output of public value strategies?
The challenges laid down by two people who have done as much to define public value as anyone in the current climate, will be followed by a panel featuring analyst Mathew Horsman, former Sky exec and consultant Graham McWilliam, Prof Diane Coyle, professor of public policy at Cambridge and former deputy chair of the BBC Trust and Richard Sambrook, emeritus professor at Cardiff University.
Day 2 starts with tech analyst Benedict Evans in conversation with OTB chair Jane Martinson, academic at City University and Guardian journalist. They will discuss what has driven big tech into TV and whether there is any point in trying to regulate global players. A panel session featuring experts from UX design, regulation and product will pick up Benedict Evans’ provocations.
On Day 3, Sir Peter Bazalgette, chairman of ITV, and Ed Richards, co-founder of Flint Partners and former CEO of Ofcom, will set the final phase of debate by looking at what the industry can do to demonstrate its ability to “collaborate to compete” and how a supportive regulatory environment should complement.
Their conversation will give a springboard to thoughts on partnership from a panel of experts from inside and outside the PSB world.
Nothing less than the future of public service broadcasting is at stake right now and Outside the box will be the place to hear new thinking on what needs to happen for Britain to retain its global leadership in PSB for decades to come.