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Ofcom conjures up idea of public IP TV broadcaster

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UK communications regulator Ofcom has called for the setting up of a new public service provider (PSP) which would distribute TV programs in a digital format through broadband lines, networked PVRs, and mobile networks, as well as more conventional TV distribution systems.

It has also proposed funding of £300m ($540m) a year, which would include the commissioning of TV programs, and Ofcom said it would be able to spend as much as £200,000 ($360,000) for each hour of content it created.

The aim would be to compete with the BBC and other publicly funded TV, to provide high-quality content, and instead of a 24-hour TV channel, it should aim for about 3 hours of programming per day. Content of that quality could eventually be made available internationally on a pay per view basis.

The PSP would be different to existing broadcasters. Inevitably, in its early years in the transition to digital, much of the PSP's digital content would be more likely to resemble traditional TV programs, but it would not be a TV channel in the traditional sense, nor would it publish books, magazines or newspapers (as the BBC has done). There should be a series of public bids to run the PSP in the UK, but it should not be awarded to the BBC, insisted Ofcom.

Ofcom said it would not rule out carriage arrangements whereby the PSP secured agreements to distribute publicly funded material on analogue TV before digital switchover. Of course it is primarily seen as a shortcut to both digital TV programming and internet delivery.

If Ofcom gets this original idea off the ground there is a good chance that other European countries with prominent public service broadcasting commitments might also adopt it.

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Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of events that have happened each week in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.

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