41. Memorandum submitted by
Mr Bob Tyler
VITV operates two television channels on the
Sky Digital platform, Channel U and Fizz TV. Both services work
on a mainly telecom revenue model, with viewer interaction through
text and other Telco services.
Fizz TV, started in February 2005 is a predominantly
Top 40 hit service, playing current chart music as chosen by the
listener. A "Text to Screen" service accompanies the
video in a split screen format allowing listeners to send messages
as part of a Fizz community. The company operates a fully compliant
system of moderation within the Ofcom Codes and general rules
of Taste and Decency in conjunction with the live text service.
Channel U started in February 2004 and although
initially not a Black music style service, is now, through stealth,
a prominent UK Urban Music TV channel, focusing on unsigned material
and aspiring artists. We however insist that Channel U is not
a black channel but an Urban genre because of the appeal of the
music to a cross section of youth.
The station is a free to air service on the
BskyB platform and showcases many unsigned or up and coming musicians
that do not have access to or would not be considered by other
TV services, either mainstream or specialist.
Musically Channel U features UK Hip Hop, UK
Grime, Bashment and some Jamaican Dancehall. Rolling video programming
is supported with occasional live performances, such as "open
mic" sessions, interviews and showcase performances.
Whilst fast becoming a brand in its own right,
Channel U is sometimes perceived by viewers as London focused
however there is a rise in interest from aspiring artists outside
of the capital and the station is beginning to receive a regular
flow of material and contact from other UK regions. There is also
a mis-conception that Channel U is a black or ethnic proposition,
the music is performed and enjoyed by everyone that participates
in an Urban life style.
Tight budgets and unsophisticated technology
rather than degrade the product, actually enhances it, giving
the station a different appearance from more mainstream TV stations.
Consequently the Channel U on screen persona is fitting and liked
by the young urban viewer. Channel U's main attraction demographically
(45% approximately) are young people between the ages of 16 to
24 years (BARB data). Nearly 20% of the audience to Channel U
are under 16.
The audience profile of Channel U has disadvantages
in respect of in-home viewing and transmission platforms. Young
people tend not to be Digital TV subscribers in their own right.
Effectively viewing has to be more opportunist than planed when
considering a family TV set with Digital satellite. Secondly Cable
TV propensity is greatest in urban areas, towns etc, often where
the fixing of dishes is limited or prohibited. Carriage on Cable
would greatly improve Channel U viewing, penetrating inner city
areas and subsequently reaching more audience. However, cable
services are dominated by major players and the network is restricted
by capacity. Channel U has not been successful in obtaining carriage
on the crowded Cable networks.
Channel U operates under an Ofcom licence and
adheres to the Broadcasting Codes as regulated by the regulator.
At any one time approximately 70% of music videos played on the
channel are from unsigned, mainly UK Urban artists.
This places a regulatory responsibility on Channel
U staff not only in terms of the volume of submitted videos for
consideration but also administering the compliance issues in
respect of the Ofcom Codes and Channel U standards.
On an average month Channel U receives approximately
100 videos for consideration. Some (approximately) 30% are re-submission,
videos sent back to the artist for editing to comply with acceptable
standards. The process engages the time of more than three people,
to register, review, assess and provide the appropriate feedback
over content issues. Videos are always processed by a minimum
of two people to create a transparent process. A second stage
process examining any potential compliance issues is in place
for submissions that need further review. This can generally number
around 15 videos a week for closer examination.
Approximately 30% of videos are accepted on
first submission and approximately 20% are initially rejected
on the basis of being poor quality, out of tune etc. Approximately
5% are rejected on the basis of violent undertones or similar,
such as glorification of drug use etc, images of weapons and glorification
or promotion of violent behaviour. Of the remaining, more than
half are considered in terms of content for post-watershed viewing
with the remaining being deemed suitable for daytime. In this
process contact is made with the artist to advise of any recommended
edits or alterations that would make the material more suitable
etc. These are re-submitted after editing and treated as new submissions,
taking their place in the submission queue.
All videos must be submitted with copies of
lyrics otherwise they will not be entered into the review system.
A submission form requires full contact details and proper UK
This process was fully introduced in January
2006 after a significant change of management against a back drop
of two minor complaints. Subsequently, staff have been made more
familiar with the appropriate Broadcasting Codes that apply, additionally
three staff have attended Workshops provided by the regulator
Ofcom. Channel U is proud of its current achievements in maintaining
relationships with the regulator and in 2006 making no infringements.
In addition to the regulator's Codes, Channel
U also impose additional standards in respect of the inclusion
of weapons in material both visually and lyrically. By issuing
feedback and website information to artists we feel we help to
create more awareness over the issues surrounding this genre of
music. Although not yet statistically measured, we have, from
the beginning of 2006 received less video entries that have, what
we call a "dark nature". Artists have realised that
making a video suitable for daytime viewing will have more plays
on the channel than a video that is confined to post-watershed
When a video is finally selected for inclusion
each is allocated a voting number that can either be voted for
by text or telephone. A weekly chart promotes the Top Ten most
voted videos, with some being popular for ten or more weeks. During
2006 around 50 different artists were showcased on the station
with around 700 individual videos.
A text to screen service of messaging operates
for four hours daily. Viewers have the chance to text a message
to the screen, supporting an act or simply messaging the Urban
community. This is not a main revenue stream and carries high
compliance costs in terms of message editing and moderation.
The station also has a free service, "Friday
Freeness" when all call charges are dropped. However there
are still network costs involved and in effect the service costs
money in terms of network charges. Additional revenues are made
from limited advertising.
In 2006 Channel U invested heavily in server
capacity and re-launched its website (www.channelu.tv) in August
2006. On demand video viewing (not download) is already proving
popular and additional staff have been employed to increase written
content, including music/artist news and artist profiles.
Mr Bob Tyler
Head of Compliance and Regulatory Affairs