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Friday, October 21, 2016
Digital changeover could lead to modern tower of Babel say bishops
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 Catholic and Anglican bishops yesterday warned of the risk that, without strong and vibrant public service content, broadcasting after digital switchover could sow confusion and mistrust rather than aid public enlightenment and social cohesion. The voices of the many digital channels and the proliferation of user-generated content on the internet will otherwise be a bewildering cacophony. In submissions to Ofcom's Second Review of Public Service Broadcasting, the Church of England and the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales argue that UK public service broadcasting must therefore be funded, sustained and adapted to fit the world after digital switchover. The submissions call "for all necessary action to be taken to sustain and develop public service broadcasting for the common good." They support the funding of providers of public service content beyond the BBC and praise Ofcom for recognising that there might be new forms of subsidy for public service content. The bishops go on to argue that the role of public service content in helping television audiences to reach a balanced understanding of the world must survive, and that if the quality and breadth of public service content is diminished following digital switchover, society as a whole will suffer. Speaking about their submissions, The Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch, Anglican Bishop of Manchester and the Rt Revd John Arnold, Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster said: "There is a real risk that the flood of information from a proliferation of digital channels could be confusing and bewildering creating a modern Tower of Babel rather than being enlightening. Public service broadcasting can be a comprehensive, authoritative and trustworthy guide in this environment. Therefore the full range of public service content needs to be made available across all platforms - internet, mobile and digital." Ofcom's research shows that audiences recognise the value of all types of existing public service content in helping them to understand the world. The bishops' submissions suggest that, given the extent to which faith shapes many decisions and actions, public service content that fails to adequately reflect the complex realities of faith in the modern world will fall short of its purpose to help people understand themselves and their communities. The submissions also welcome Ofcom's research finding that the social value of religious content is recognised and that religious content fares roughly the same on this count as many other kinds of public service programming (fig 9, Ofcom Report: The Digital Opportunity). Noting the relatively low 'personal preference' score given to religious programmes by those surveyed, the bishops call on Ofcom to recognise the breadth of programmes that should fit under this umbrella which gain bigger audiences and show remarkably high levels of appreciation, such as the BBC's Helen House and The Boys from Baghdad High. The submission continued: "The nature of broadcasting in the UK and the experience of viewers will be fundamentally changed 1. without the capacity to maintain social cohesion through public service content 2. without new funding, fresh commitment and access to multiple channels, internet and mobile platforms which will bring public service content to new audiences 3. without its comprehensive character and broad appeal to all tastes through a variety of types of programmes, including programmes about faith and the lives of believers 4. without fresh funding or incentives in the post-switchover digital world to sustain a variety of public service content producers." Source: CoE News
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