UK Culture Secretary Lays Out Why The Government Is Regulating The Streamers

In the time it takes you to reach the end of this paragraph, 15 million emails will have been sent. 30,000 tweets will have been published. Three million Facebook updates will have been made. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of blogs, Instagram posts and news articles will have been added to a running total measured in billions. During the biblical flood, the world was supposedly overflowing with water; today we are drowning in gigabytes.

Technology has transformed every facet of our life – and there are few places where that is more evident than how we watch and consume TV.

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UK Government Publishes Long-Awaited Media Bill To Help Bring Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video Under Regulatory Framework

Our entertainment landscape is unrecognisable from even a decade ago. Today, figures from the UK media regulator Ofcom showed that young adults spend more time scrolling on TikTok than watching broadcast television. Instead, young people have flocked to streaming services – with deep-pocketed giants like Apple TV +, Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video providing an all-you-can-eat television service.

But the laws governing broadcasting have not been part of this technological revolution. They’ve remained relatively static. The last time they were updated, a smartphone was a Nokia 3310, Netflix was a mail-order DVD rental firm and British dramas Heartbeat, A Touch of Frost and Spooks were among the most watched shows of the year.

Our public service broadcasters – despite the breakneck speed of changes to our media landscape – have, so far, kept pace and maintained their reputation for exceptional programing that reflects our national identity as it evolves through time. And the value they produce has extended way beyond their own streaming offerings and onto those of other platforms.

Last year Ofcom examined how often content made by our public service broadcasters was streamed on Netflix in the UK. The results were remarkable. Some 510 million streams in the first quarter of 2022. That is almost a third of what Netflix’s own original content attracted over the same period. One survey respondent even said they didn’t bother watching a traditional TV channel because they could simply wait for their show to turn up on Netflix.

If we want our public service broadcasters to continue holding their own in 10, 20, 50 years time, we need a rulebook that allows them to innovate and compete. So today that is what we are creating, with a new draft Media Bill.

This draft Bill sets out a blueprint for the UK broadcast media landscape, and one that gives our most treasured broadcasters the tools and freedoms they need to continue producing and showing high-quality, original content and trusted, impartial news, both now and in the future.

One of its centrepieces is the creation of a new public service remit for TV that will overhaul and simplify what it means to be a public service broadcaster in the UK.

And as part of that, we’re introducing new rules to make sure public service broadcasters’ apps like BBC iPlayer and ITVX, as well as STV Player in Scotland and S4C’s Clic in Wales, are always easy to find and watch, whether you’re using a smart TV, a streaming stick or set-top box.

We are also levelling the playing field by broadening the scope of Ofcom regulation and extending it to cover the streaming giants for the very first time. Those companies will now have to comply with a new code, in line with traditional broadcasters, to make sure their shows are subject to high standards and protect audiences – particularly children – from harmful material.

For the 12 million people living with hearing loss and visual impairments in the UK, the Bill will mean greater access to subtitles, audio description and signed interpretation on-demand, as they are on linear TV.

The Bill will also benefit the millions of radio listeners in this country. It will guarantee all licensed UK radio stations can be accessed on smart speakers like Google Nest and Amazon Echo, while simultaneously slashing antiquated rules which tie radio stations to commitments like broadcasting particular genres of music or to particular age groups.

Around 40 years ago, I was hooked on Channel 4 drama Brookside. Without a crystal ball there’s no way of knowing what the media landscape will look like in another 40 years’ time – but with these changes we will help enable our brilliant public service broadcasters to unleash their potential to grow, produce more top quality British content and invest in new technologies that keep viewers tuning in.

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