Britain to overhaul Streaming regulations
Britain also proceeding with proposal to privatise the government-owned Channel 4.
The British government has laid out its plans to reshape the country’s broadcasting landscape with a broad-ranging set of proposals, contained in a White Paper published on Thursday.
They include a proposal to privatise the government-owned Channel 4 and give regulator Ofcom powers over streaming platforms such as Netflix.
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has revealed the new plans, saying there was a need to “protect audiences” from “harmful material” that may be broadcast on streaming platforms.
And Cabinet minister Ben Wallace told ITV News there was “no harm” in selling off Channel 4, despite fervent opposition to its sale, saying “I don’t know why the government is running a TV channel”.
Some of the proceeds from the sale of Channel 4 would be used to deliver a new creative dividend for the sector, the government proposal said.
Ms Dorries described Channel 4 as the “last piece of the puzzle” as she wrote about the broadcasting White Paper.
The government plans will give the UK media watchdog the power to draft and enforce a new video-on-demand code, aimed at setting standards for “larger TV-like services” such as Netflix, ITV Hub and Now TV to level the rules with traditional broadcasters.
The maximum fine for a breach of the code will be £250,000 ($AU440,000) or an amount up to five per cent of their revenue – whichever is higher.
Ofcom will also be given a “strengthened duty” to assess protection such as age ratings and viewer guidance, with powers to force change under the new proposal.
Online platforms such as Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video and other streamers will have new rules set out for them – that will hold them to the same guidelines followed by traditional broadcasters.
Streaming services run by traditional broadcasters such as the ITV Hub, BBC iPlayer and Sky’s Now TV will also fall under the new regulations.
The government said the plans will include measures to protect audiences from a wider range of harmful material, citing unchallenged health claims and pseudoscience documentaries.
The white paper, released on Thursday, signals the framework for the privatisation of Channel 4.
The privatisation will remove restrictions which “effectively prohibit” the broadcaster from producing and selling its own content, according to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
Under private ownership, Channel 4 will have access to capital and the freedom to make its own content, allowing it to diversify its revenue stream, it said.
It added that under public ownership, the broadcaster has limited ability to borrow or raise capital by issuing shares and its set-up “effectively stops it from making its own content”.
The proceeds from the sale of Channel 4 have been earmarked to help deliver a new creative dividend for the sector.
The white paper also proposes the opportunity to secure rights to air TV’s major sporting events, such as the FIFA World Cup and Wimbledon, be made an exclusive public service broadcasters (PSB) benefit through reforms to the listed events regime.
Similarly, the government will update prominence rules so online TV platforms are legally required to offer PSB on-demand services, such as BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub, and give them prominence so they are easy to find on the platform.
The government will also review the BBC’s license fee funding model and freeze the price of the TV license for two years.
Bridget Fair, Free TV Australia CEO commented: “Today’s announcement from the UK Government demonstrates that whether people can access their local media services on connected devices and are able to watch live and free sport are concerns shared right around the world.
“Free TV has consistently said that ensuring that all Australians have access to their free television services, regardless of what technology is used to deliver it, is the most urgent regulatory issue for the television sector. Free TV looks forward to working constructively with digital platforms and television manufacturers to provide the best outcome for audiences.
“The Australian Government has already prioritised work on the issue of prominence through the Broadcast Working Group, but this announcement from the UK Government gives confidence that we can move even more quickly to a proposed solution that will be in line with comparable international jurisdictions.
“The UK proposal recognises the Australian News Media Bargaining Code model as delivering an effective approach to issues where one or two big tech companies occupy a gateway position for consumers seeking to access local media services.
“Australian policy makers need to act urgently to ensure that our TV screens are not turned into one big search engine where those who pay the most are found first.
“The anti-siphoning list expires in less than 12 months’ time. It is the only thing that ensures that events of national importance are able to be watched live and free by all Australians. The current rules are now more than 30 years old and don’t contemplate the exclusive acquisition of iconic sporting events by subscription streaming companies.
“The anti-siphoning list urgently needs to be renewed and its scope expanded to cover subscription streaming services. There is a strong public interest in all Australians being able to share in the triumphs of our sporting champions, which brings us together as a community,” Fair said.
“Free TV calls on both the Government and Opposition to endorse the approach being outlined in the UK Broadcast White Paper and to commit to implement similar legislation should they form Government after the election on 21 May”.