Increasing cooperation in media between the UK and China

Recent high level visits by to the UK and China have highlighted opportunities for increasing trade between the countries. A significant area for attention has been the creative industries, which are very important for the UK economy. The outputs of the UK creative industries are admired around the world and brands such as the BBC provide a global reference point for production quality. UK independent producers have led the work in new TV formats, which have scored major successes around the world. Chinese film, TV and radio producers have looked to the UK to help them develop the enormous potential evident in the Chinese market - and help them grow to be able to serve markets outside China too.

The China Media Centre at the University of Westminster has been playing a key role in facilitating interchange between the UK creative industry and leading players in China, such as the Shanghai Media Group (SMG). CMC has delivered many courses for chinese producers, providing them with first hand insights into UK production techniques an excellent understanding of what has shaped the UK market and kept the UK creative industries at the global leading edge.

With new co-production agreements recently signed by Chinese and UK governments, there will be increasing opportunities to work together. From the UK perspective, this means increasing access to the enormous audiences for television, radio, and online services in China. It will also provide opportunities to identify Chinese-produced content and home grown talent which can be applied to wider international market.

Larkhill has been pleased to work with the China Media Centre for many years, delivering courses and lectures on the impact of new technology on innovation in service offerings, production and the creative ecosystem. We have enjoyed working with the visiting Chinese producers from leading companies such as SMG. We congratulate Professor Hugo de Burgh and his colleagues on the great success they have achieved since the centre opened, ten years ago. Many Happy Returns!

Plans to move BBC 3 TV channel to online only

Today the BBC announced surprise plans to enable BBC 3 reception through online (through its highly popular iPlayer service) only. This follows announcements last year to air some flagship BBC 3 programmes online first.

This latest move could save considerable distribution cost, depending on the BBC's committments to operators such as Arqiva, but content commissioning is likely to be a much larger part of the current £85m budget. The BBC management seems to be reasoning that the Channel's target audience are spending an increasing amount of time online anyway, through tablets and smartphones. If so, the usage of iPlayer should radically increase as viewers switch from TV access to the channel onto Internet-connected devices. It's also worth bearing in mind that the increasing number of connected TV's in the market will enable many viewers to continue watching BBC 3 through their TV. A BBC article on the proposal is available here.

What isn't clear yet is whether the channel will be purely on-demand in the future, but this would reduce the pressure that a schedule places on commissioning and acquisition. If the channel were purely on-demand, it might been as a recognition of the increasing success of Netflix's model of television entertainment.

We have seen a number of similar developments across Europe, as pressures on public finance reduces funding available for terrestrial TV distribution - Spain, Italy and Greece come to mind. The public broadcasters association, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), has expressed concern about the impact of these developments on the long term viability of public service television, which faces increasing competition from pay-television services. The EBU has also voiced unease at the possible clearance of the 700 MHz band for use to enhance mobile broadband services, following the long and painful process to clear broadcasting from the 800 MHz band, across the whole of Europe.

As its charter renewal approaches, the BBC faces further difficult decisions on how to prioritise and justify its spending of public money (collected through the TV licence fee), in an era of rapidly expanding entertainment and news choice. However the BBC Trust will need to approve this as with any other significant change in the BBC's services, so there is still time for discussion.

Next week, make sure to tune in to catch ....