The UK government announced that the big streaming companies will be regulated by Ofcom in the same way that big broadcasters are. The proposed change to the regulatory system comes as part of a landmark white paper released by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, which proposes a variety of changes to the UK broadcasting sector. According to Ofcom, the share of total viewing for linear TV channels such as ITV and the BBC fell by more than 10% between 2017 and 2020. Meanwhile, the share for subscription video-on-demand services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video rose from 6% to 19% over the same period.
Plans in the new broadcasting white paper published on Thursday aim to "protect audiences from a wider range of harmful material - such as unchallenged health claims - while watching programs on video-on-demand services." Ofcom confirmed that these services will be brought under UK jurisdiction and subject to a video-on-demand code similar to the Broadcasting Code, enforced by the competition authority. Fines for breaches could be up to £250.000 or 5% of annual turnover.
Furthermore, Ofcom said that these new measures aim to boost domestic public service broadcasters (PSBs) which develop talent and skills to drive growth in the creative industries and deliver distinctive, diverse British content. They also aim to “allow them to compete fairly, to continue to make shows loved at home and abroad, and support the UK’s booming production sector, which is worth £3 billion, even before accounting for the success of the BBC, ITV, and Channel 5’s own production studios.”
Moreover, UK public service broadcasters will no longer be subject to a complicated set of “purposes” and “objectives” from previous laws. Their remit will be overhauled and simplified, with a new definition of what it means to be a PSB and a focus on creating distinctive shows which reflect British culture, support domestic film and TV production, and provide impartial and accurate news.
While making sure PSBs continue to serve audiences across the UK with universally-available high-quality programming, they will be given greater freedom and flexibility in how they can fulfill their public service obligations. They will be allowed to meet their public service requirements by showing content on online platforms instead of just on their main channels as it stands today. The government will legislate to make sure PSB content is always carried and easy to find for UK audiences on connected devices and major online platforms. “The UK’s TV and radio industries are world-renowned for their creativity, driven by exceptional talent that is delivering groundbreaking public service programming. Set against the backdrop of the digital transformation of our viewing habits, today’s plans will revamp decades-old laws to help our public service broadcasters compete in the internet age and usher in a new golden age for British TV and radio. This will provide jobs and growth in the future along with the content we all love,” said Nadine Dorries, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport of the United Kingdom.
Today’s plans will revamp decades-old laws to help our public service broadcasters compete in the internet age and usher in a new golden age for British TV and radio” Nadine Dorries Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport of the United Kingdom