the survival of spotlight tv is under serious threat

After more than six years of broadcasting in the UK, across Europe and around the world, the survival and future of Spotlight TV is, at present, extremely uncertain.  In fact, there is every chance that we may be forced to cease broadcasting within a matter of just a few weeks unless urgent changes are made within the television industry.

There ARE actions that you – our loyal viewers – can take, to make your feelings known and to support us in trying to bring about the changes that are not only needed to survive, but are also long overdue.  In this section of our website, we’ll explain the situation and the problems that we (and other independent channels) are facing, and we’ll outline what YOU can do to help in our fight for survival.

The basics of how an independent channel works

Spotlight TV broadcast primarily on the Sky, Freesat and Freeview (VisionTV) platforms.  We pay these companies to broadcast the content we produce across their networks and, ultimately, into your home and onto your television screen.  This is not cheap.  To give you an idea, the cost of running the channel across our current three platforms is around £82,000.00 PER MONTH.  This already-eye-watering figure would see an increase of more than £285,000.00 PER MONTH if we returned to full Freeview.

We, as do most independent channels, receive our income from advertising.  Companies selling the products and services you see advertised on the channel pay advertising agencies, who in turn pay us for airing the advertisements on our channel.  The amount we receive from advertising agencies varies (sometimes quite considerably) depending on the viewing figures the channel has achieved.

Simply put… the higher the viewing figures = the bigger the audience reached = the more income received from advertising agencies.

Similarly, the lower the figures, the lower the audience reached, and subsequently the lower the income received.

Television channels like Spotlight TV are required to pay a fee to BARB to supply these figures.  This fee varies depending on your viewing figures.  Spotlight TV are required to pay BARB a minimum of £50,000 per year – a figure which could reach nearly £100,000 if viewing figures were high enough.

BARB is owned and controlled by the big five:  BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky.  Because these media giants largely dominate the industry, you would rightly expect their fees payable to BARB to be in the millions.  But they’re not.  None of these big broadcasters pay for the BARB service.  Instead, claiming that they collectively ‘guarantee’ the company, they each pay just £1.

It’s hardly fair, is it?

Viewing figures and BARB

Advertising agencies, who pay television channels based on their viewing figures, are required to base their payment amounts on the viewing figures supplied by the Broadcasters Audience Research Board (BARB).

BARB produce these figures by monitoring the viewing habits of households in the United Kingdom, essentially recording details of what shows and what channels are being watched at any one time.  These figures are released daily.

But there are serious problems with how BARB reach these figures – not least because they operate without any competition, using a technology that is now over 70 years old.

There are around 32 MILLION households in the United Kingdom.  BARB surveys only 5,200 of them.  So the viewing figures awarded to a television channel are based on the actual viewing of less than 1% of the population (0.016% to be precise).

So, in theory, 30 million households might tune in to a particular programme, but if none of those households happen to be within the BARB family, the programme is given a zero rating, effectively saying nobody watched it.

This has happened countless times to Spotlight TV.  We have many examples of cases where viewers in their thousands have been reacting on social media, on guestbooks, and via direct messages to the channel, about their enjoyment or reaction to a particular show.  Because of the reactions we receive, WE KNOW that viewers HAVE tuned in.  But because they weren’t included in BARB’s tiny group of households, the show is given a zero rating.

This has also happened to shows on other channels.  We understand that Piers Morgan, Nigel Farage and Andrew Neil have all had their shows given a zero rating, despite having received huge social media response at the time of broadcast.

This directly – and devastatingly – affects how much revenue the advertising agencies pay the television channel.

And as if that isn’t staggering enough, we can also reveal that some of the households included in BARB’s tiny family don’t even own a television!

When Spotlight TV’s CEO Phil Mack asked why they would include homes without a television, BARB’s boss Nigel McLachlan said it was “in case they buy a television in the future”!

32 million

households in the United Kingdom (approximately)

0.016%

are included in the production of BARB’s viewing figures

The unfair and devastating impact on independent channels

Historically, Spotlight TV’s viewing figures have been generally stable.  We have been able to see by looking at the figures which shows are more popular than others, and which shows simply aren’t working.  Overall, we could predict quite accurately how a show would perform.

But lately, the figures provided by BARB have became so erratic that they are no longer even believable.

We are seeing some of our longest-running and most popular shows, which have performed very well consistently for many years, suddenly being given a zero viewers rating.  That zero rating directly affects the amount of money that advertising agencies pay.

Similarly, BARB’s crazy figures recently told us that, quite randomly, several thousand viewers suddenly climbed out of bed at 3am early one Sunday morning to tune in to a show!  It really does stretch the bounds of trust and reliability beyond anyone’s belief.

How YOU can get involved to help fight for our survival

There are several ways you can get involved and support us in our fight to make BARB fit for purpose, and we really do need as many of our viewers as possible to do so without delay.

You can get in touch with key people with the power to bring change, to explain your frustration and unhappiness with the way the current system is allowing the ‘big-hitters’ to decimate the smaller competition.  We’ve provided some names and contact details of these key people below, and strongly encourage you to make contact as soon as possible.  By contacting these people as often as you can, we may just have a better chance of pushing them into taking the action which is not only necessary, but right.

We’ve also provided a draft document which you can copy and paste (and edit if you wish) to send to these people.

Draft Letter / Text

Dear Sir/Madam,

The Broadcasters Audience Research Board Control the revenue, through advertising, of independent commercial television channels. They operate, without competition, using a technology that is now over 70 years old and have done so for around 30 years.

This, in my opinion, is a large contributing factor in the limited availability of truly independent broadcasters given that BARB is owned and operated by a group of very large entities that stand to gain the most from controlling such an organisation.

The owners of this organisation are: BBC, ITV, Ch 4, Ch 5, Sky, The Institute Of Practitioners Of Advertising and (until December 2022) UKTV.

It has recently become evident that none of the biggest broadcasters pay for BARB service, claiming that they collectively ‘guarantee’ the company. That guarantee currently stands at £1 for each guarantor. The smallest channels are required to pay an annual fee of £40,000 in order to have their viewing figures ‘guessed’ by this out dated method with zero support from them during the pandemic when even the government were bending over backwards to help and protect smaller businesses. That fee increases sharply as the share of viewership increases.

Given that 3 of the companies controlling this organisation also control the entire infrastructure of broadcasting in the UK, there is, without question, a massive conflict of interests and, at best, an accidental ‘cartel’ that is freezing out any meaningful competition in UK television broadcasting.


Nadine Dorries

Culture, Media and Digital Secretary

Telephone  020 7211 6000

Nigel McLachlan

Head of Broadcasters Audience Research Board (BARB)

Melanie Dawes

Chief Executive, OFCOM

Telephone  020 7981 3520

The Cartels Hotline

Telephone  0800 085 1664  or  020 3738 6888

You can also sign up to our newsletter and we’ll keep you updated on developments

PLEASE ACT NOW – TIME IS RUNNING OUT

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* Freeview VisionTV  (Ch.264)