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Freeview research on the value of public service broadcasters during lockdown

Despite the popularity of online streaming services among younger generations, lockdown seems to have heightened their affection and support for public-service broadcasters (PSBs) and free-to-view TV. Differences in attitudes towards PSBs between older generations and 16-34-year-olds was negligible.

At times of national crisis, people perceive television content from the PSBs as more important than streaming services including Netflix and Amazon Prime.  Photograph: Shutterstock
At times of national crisis, people perceive television content from the PSBs as more important than streaming services including Netflix and Amazon Prime. Photograph: Shutterstock
published on UK Free TV

From Freeview

Young viewers value public-service television as much as older generations, according to new research conducted for Freeview. The streaming generation has given a powerful vote of confidence to free-to-view TV as lockdown sees young people placing high value on the four public service broadcasters - BBC, ITV, C4 and Channel 5 -  for content that informs and entertains. 

The results suggest that lockdown has led to a reappraisal of public service broadcasting amongst younger audiences with almost two thirds saying that they value content from the PSBs more now than before the onset of Covid-19. Three quarters of 16-34s say that the PSBs play an important role in bringing together the nation in times of crisis.

Freeview’s new research focused on exploring consumer perceptions of trust and value toward television, content and information providers, in the context of the pandemic. The research was conducted by Aurora Market Research for Freeview via an online survey with a nationally representative UK sample, involving more than 1,000 interviews. 

Please find the key findings below: 

At times of national crisis, people perceive television content from the PSBs as more important than streaming services including Netflix and Amazon Prime.

  • 75% rate the BBC portfolio of channels as important at a time of crisis (the highest scored), followed by ITV (63%), C4 (51%) and then Netflix (40%).
  • For 16-34s however, streaming services become more important, but only just, with Netflix and BBC on a level pegging (68% and 66%, respectively). For this audience, three out of the top four most important TV providers are PSBs (BBC, ITV, C4). The research suggests that PSB and SVODs are complementary services, playing different roles for younger viewers.

Free TV (without subscription or contract) is important for society, especially at times of national crisis - across all age groups.

  • When Freeview asked people to think about the importance of free TV for society before the Covid-19 crisis hit, virtually all (91%) of respondents rated it very/quite important (88% of 16-34s). Those who think it is very important has risen from 52% to 64% following the pandemic. 

The value 16-34 year-olds attach to PSBs was almost on a par with other age groups. This was true for PSB TV as a trustworthy news and information source as well as for entertainment. For example:

People believe PSBs play an important role in delivering accurate information to the nation (across all age groups), this is especially important at times of national crisis.

  • 8 in 10 (80%) agree that the PSBs keep them informed about what’s going on in the UK (76% of 16-34s).

Consumers typically navigate toward the PSBs when they want information that is accurate and trustworthy, whatever the platform (TV, radio, online).

  • Of those who turn to television for their news, 94% spontaneously cite a PSB channel and 86% cite a BBC specific channel (93% of 16-34’s cite a PSB source vs 96% of those aged 55+). 

Overall, Freeview’s research provides a strong sense that the PSBs continue to play an important role in society.

This is especially true for news and information but extends much further to broader societal needs. And it’s a sentiment that has been strengthened since the outbreak of Covid-19.

  • 8 in 10 (80%) agree that the public service broadcasters have an important role to play in bringing together the nation in times of crisis (74% of 16-34’s).


Owen Jenkinson, marketing director of Freeview, said:

“Young people value PSBs just as much as older viewers do – that is the unequivocal verdict from this research. The idea that somehow British young adults are lost to streamers clearly doesn’t stack up."

“Lockdown has brought out just how much they care. While of course they have long appreciated many of the shows offered by PSBs - from Love Island, to Killing Eve, to Bake Off – it seems the experience of lockdown and the need to be informed about their future has given younger viewers the opportunity to appreciate more what the PSBs offer."

“They want to feel part of a bigger, national effort. To watch the live briefings, to see the fundraising efforts, and the national clap-for-carers. It has also given them the time, where they may previously have been out, they are now in, looking for entertainment on the box. And it has given them the opportunity to spend more time with family members and the chance to watch together, to watch entertainment and drama as well as news.”

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Tuesday, 9 June 2020
Willie Bone

12:12 AM

Every modern civilised country should include a public service broadcasting outfit for radio and television.
How it is should be paid for will be one of the main debates of the next UK government, for the BBC Royal Charter will expire on Hogmanay 2027.
My viewpoint is, the BBC is nationalised, so the taxpayer should fit the bill, like we do for the NHS, roads and railway infrastructure etc.. Legislation should be introduced to continue governing the BBC with an arm's length committee, well away from the mandarins of Whitehall, ensuring impartiality of programme output!
I reckon, the tv licence fee income process for the BBC and other projects is now on borrowed time! I suspect, the similar funding model for Ireland's state broadcaster RTE, will also discontinue the tv licence system. Time will tell..

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Willie Bone's 58 posts GB flag
Thursday, 11 June 2020
Lou Valdini
12:45 PM

I find it hard to believe younger audiences put PSBs on a par with e.g. Netflix and Prime. We have an 18-year-old and he and his friends hardly ever watch a PSB unless its Love Island! I also find it hard to believe the younger generation trust PSBs to bring them the facts. The older generation has certainly lost faith in our PSBs to be unbiased since Brexit, and this has been reinforced during the lockdown, especially the BBC.

I was an avid BBC viewer and listener, but its anti-Conservative Government narrative and constant use of the State broadcaster by a number of journalists on exorbitant taxpayer-funded salaries to forcefully make their personal views known is a disgrace.

If this continues, the Government will be forced to bow to public pressure to change the way the BBC is funded.

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Lou Valdini's 1 post GB flag
Tuesday, 16 June 2020
Monterey Pines
11:20 AM

Willie Bone: personally I really only watch News, some drama and documentaries on the BBC. There is loads they broadcast that I choose not to watch. Surely this is the same with everyone. I agree Willie, PBS should be funded through general taxation meaning people pay according to their means. The Tv licence is merely an Entertainment Poll Tax and cannot be defended or sustained. How is it fair that my 87yr old father alone will have to pay the same licence fee as Richard Branson etc. The streaming subscription services provide what people want, they choose and pay for it. How is Eastenders public service broadcasting?
Privatise the BBC and create a truly PSB for all.

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Monterey Pines's 1 post GB flag
6:05 PM

Willie Bone
Absolutely SPOT ON! It's about time to draw a line under the uncontrolled greed of the BBC and the staff thereof. I feel they have for some time lost the respect of (mainly) older viewers who see little of interest to hold thier attention other than oldie orientated progs like Antiques roadshow. This plus a lack of respect for program schedules, where Sport is allowed to elbow into the time-slots that many older/regular viewers rely on.
I have not watched more than 20 minutes of BBC since we started the BREXIT campaign.
BBC unbiased, I THINK NOT. Now a left wing mouthpiece for the Young University clientel who only focus on what the Loony leftist professors pump into them. Now the news is available elsewhere online and less biased therefore, many have migrated elsewhere (online). I feel the licence fee is on the whole, robbery by another name.

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H.Porcher's 2 posts GB flag
Wednesday, 17 June 2020

3:38 PM


I chuckled as I read your post, pretty well agree with most of that. Though you should watch the Daily Coronavirus Updates from the government. They are generally very informative and at least you don't get the distortions of reality that you find on some programmes and social media.

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Chris.SE's 3,925 posts GB flag
Tuesday, 30 June 2020
Robert M

10:08 PM

It's clear that Freeview has and is continuing to go down the toilet.
The latest channel shuffling and subsequent re-scans have revealed that for sure (Forces TV and Now 80's have gone) BBC4 still has the axe hanging over it also as does any channel they start to eye up for a reshuffle.
Plus 1 channels often disappear also as well as the never ending reruns of the same handful of films on Film 4. I end up going through the radio EPG and the children's channels in search of something more mentally stimulating.

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Robert M's 76 posts GB flag
Wednesday, 1 July 2020

2:02 AM

Robert M:

I'm afraid you haven't got your information quite right there Robert.
Forces TV and NOW 80s haven't gone, nor BBC4 HD, they are on COM7. If you don't receive BBC News HD on 107, then you aren't getting COM7.

For info on the latest shuffle, see 22 Jun 2020 - Important channel broadcast changes | Freeview
For a list of which channels are on which mux, see Channel listings | Freeview

I believe the BBC are having some sort of review about BBC4, haven't been to check for myself yet, but that is down to the BBC, no-one else (not Freeview/Arqiva/OFCOM just to name some).

Whilst most of us are irritated about what seems like very frequent channel shuffling, again this isn't Freeview. It's the individual Broadcasters deciding to get rid of a +1 or a whole service, or move it to a different multiplex. That's all down to commercial arrangements between them and the multiplex operator. Most of these decisions affect only the COM muxes, although there is a bit of commercial space for two SD channels on PSB3 and that's recently been filled.

For a bit more reliable information on the background of the recent change, see this post Rebuilding Freeview High Definition from 2019 onwards | free and easy

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Chris.SE's 3,925 posts GB flag
Sunday, 5 July 2020
Robert M

12:53 AM

Regarding Chris.SE comment, if channels go missing after multiple reshuffling and re-scans what is one to do other than complain?
Different areas of the Country get different services.
Forces TV and Now 80's are indeed still being broadcast but now not in my area.
So all that techno babble isn't much use when the public are extremely limited in what they can do in order to sort problems of this nature.
If someone's equipment doesn't tune in to those frequencies or those channels signal is not being broadcast in any given area then those people are stuffed. Simples.

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Robert M's 76 posts GB flag

4:51 AM

Robert M:

Wrong. At least wrong, based on your previous post where you implied that you used to receive them when they were on COM8. It would have been helpful if you'd commented on whether you'd ever received BBC News HD on 107.
So if you used to get them when they were on COM8, then COM7 IS BEING BROADCAST in your area, but you aren't receiving it for some reason.
As I don't know which transmitter(s) and multiplexes you might be able to receive, you'll need to provide a full postcode so we can look atb your predicted reception. We might then be able to help you solve why you aren't getting COM7.
It'll also be helpful is can can say what sort of aerial you have, is it on the roof, or in a loft etc.? Do you have any splitters/boosters to run more than one TV/device? Do you have any HDMI leads that might be close to your aerial leads or any flyleads?

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Chris.SE's 3,925 posts GB flag

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