Despite concerns to the contrary, the amount of current affairs programming on the main TV channels has been on the rise in recent years.
According to a study by broadcasting regulators, Ofcom, broadcasters BBC One, BBC Two, ITV1, Channel 4 and Five have all exceeded quotas set by Ofcom in terms of output and when broadcast.
The study, conducted during the latter half of last year, also found current affairs appearing more often in Scotland than in the English regions – albeit in discussions than carefully-crafted documentaries.
What Ofcom found was that the volume of current affairs programming on BBC One and ITV1 has increased since eight years ago; that 125 hours of current affairs programming was broadcast at peak times on Channel 4 compared to 96 hours also eight years previously; and that between July 1 last year and December 31, some 41 per cent of all current affairs
programming across the five channels was transmitted in peak time, with international issues taking up 18 per cent of the total.
Approximately a quarter of the current affairs output consisted of ‘filmed narrative’ programmes, with other formats including studio programmes, interviews and investigative programmes.
Meanwhile, the average viewer watched 17.06 hours of current affairs per year, up from 13 per cent five years ago.
There was a higher volume of current affairs output in the nations, such as Scotland, than the English regions. The BBC was the largest provider of non-network current affairs programming in the nations, whereas ITV was the largest provider in the English regions. Scotland’s contribution was partly because of a high amount of reporting the Scottish Parliament.
That said, while 65 per cent of non-network current affairs was broadcast in peak or near peak in the English regions, the comparable figure for the nations was 46 per cent.
And features or ‘fly on the wall’ documentaries were less common in the nations than in the English regions.
A part of the study devoted to viewer opinions found that while there was a general interest in political programmes, there was also a frustration with the emphasis on the process of politics. Viewers looked for programmes that were engaging and entertaining, citing undercover
investigations as an example.