Why Public Service Broadcasting Matters

Lord Reith’s dream: to have the best of everything in everyone’s homes.

Ever since the 1920’s the UK has adopted media policies which have become known as public service broadcasting (PSB). This describes broadcasting which serves and benefits the public. 

Radio and television, whether viewed or listened to using a TV or radio set or online, are essential for a well-functioning, well-informed society.

We are influenced by what we see, hear and read and it is crucial this content is of the highest quality if we are to be informed, engaged and active citizens.

Broadcasting is a very powerful medium which can change public opinion on a whole range of issues. It can motivate us to take action to improve our lives and the world around us – from issues such as climate change and plastic pollution to health and social issues such as mental health and homelessness.

This isn’t only done through news; drama and documentaries, comedies, children’s programmes and other content all play a role in engaging us with a huge range of issues and stories which influence the way we live our lives and view the world.

The UK’s Public Service Broadcasters are the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5. They are required by law to provide certain types of content which are considered beneficial to the public good. These include content produced in the UK which reflects our culture and values, current affairs and news programmes. 

British broadcasting is under threat 

Most of us take for granted our UK TV and radio services which are admired across much of the rest of the world. But broadcasting as we know it is under threat. Its funding has been declining for a decade and we are likely to lose something precious unless we fight to keep it. VLV believes every citizen should benefit from the huge potential of broadcasting to inform, engage and entertain with high quality content. Effective broadcasting regulation should be supported so that the benefits of high quality broadcasting, which is universally available to all citizens of the UK, are maintained.

Broadcasting should ‘enrich individuals with knowledge, culture and information about their world, to build more cohesive communities, to engage the people of the UK and the whole globe in a new conversation about who we are and where we are going …put to work to the sole benefit of the public.’ (Building Public Value, BBC 2003)


TV and radio content in the UK is regulated to provide an accurate and impartial picture of the world around us. Newspapers and online news sites are not required to provide impartial news, but TV and radio are. It is crucial at a time when democratic processes all around the world are being undermined by social media and people who intentionally publish disinformation to mislead citizens, that we have trustworthy sources of news if we are to be well-informed and able to hold politicians, companies and institutions to account.

Culture, history and traditions

To fully understand the world we live in, we need to be engaged by content which explains our history, society and the different cultures which make up UK society. TV and radio need to reflect who we are. They need to hold a mirror up so we are engaged by content which is relevant to us. We need drama, current affairs, history, arts and religious programmes and a range of programmes for children of different ages.


Everyone needs to have access to this content. It needs to be provided to everyone at the same cost so it is fair for all and keeps the household cost down. When there are moments of national importance universality means that broadcasters can bring us together as a nation.