UK PSBs call for new prominence rules to tackle tech giants

The UK’s public service broadcasters have asked the government to guarantee the prominence of their linear and on-demand services in the face of mounting pressure from global giants like Netflix.

In an open letter signed by the heads of the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, STV and S4C, the broadcasters urged broadcast regulator Ofcom to modernise its rules for ensuring the prominence of public service TV.

The letter, which was published by the Guardian, comes a week after Ofcom closed the submissions stage of its consultation into the matter – a process that saw each of the UK PSBs put forward what they described as a “compelling case for reform”.

“Regardless of where you’re watching, which device you’re watching on, or who provides your television service, you should always be able to easily find PSB services and programmes in the UK,” the broadcasters argued.

“The government and Ofcom can ensure that PSBs can continue to play their vital role in the UK’s democracy, culture and creative economy, while at the same time making sure that consumers benefit from the incredible innovation that the global technology players bring with them. We need to, and can have both.”

Currently, public service channels are positioned at the top of the TV providers’ electronic programming guides in the UK as a way of ensuring their prominence.

However, in an age of online streaming and the growing influence of global giants like Netlfix, Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple, the PSBs argue that new measures are required to address these market shifts.

“Global technology players have growing influence on what UK audiences discover when they turn on their screens,” the letter states. “Increasingly they are becoming the gatekeepers to what we watch, but they have little interest in supporting and reflecting UK culture, in ensuring the news they supply is accurate and impartial or in distributing their operations across the UK.”

The letter was co-signed by: Carolyn McCall, CEO, ITV; Tony Hall, director general, BBC; Alex Mahon CEO, Channel 4; James Currell, president of Channel 5’s parent company Viacom UK; Simon Pitts, CEO, STV; and Owen Evans, CEO, S4C.

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