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UK government to ‘ensure prominence of PSBs’ on smart TVs

The UK government is to enact new broadcasting legislation with the stated goal of protecting the future of public service media by ensuring that broadcasters’ apps have prominence on digital platforms, according to a report in the Financial Times.

According to the report, citing Whitehall officials, the government will set aside legislative time to establish new rules that guarantee the prominence of public service media on smart TVs, with the proposals partly based on recommendations to be published next month by regulator Ofcom.

Ofcom is expected to recommend the use of government powers to force a decision when broadcasters and platform operators are unable to agree commercial terms, a move that has already attracted the opposition of players such as Roku, according to the report.

Broadcasters have called for rules that protect their investment in UK content in the case of platform operators imposing what they see as unfair conditions, according to the FT.

Commercial broadcasters are seeking the establishment of a minimum requirement for prominence to put them in a better position to negotiate terms for providing enhanced services.

Following a consultation in 2019, Ofcom called for new legislation to o keep PSB prominent and support the sustainability of the public service broadcasters but stopped short of recommending specific measures.

The watchdog said that “a new framework of legislation and regulation would ensure that viewers can continue to find and access the PSBs’ linear and on-demand services, across a range of connected devices (smart TVs, set-top boxes and streaming sticks).”

Ofcom said there should be an initial focus on smarty TVs and connected TV devices, and that viewers “should be able to find PSB content easily on the homepage of connected TVs”.

It said that “PSB content should also be given protected prominence within TV platforms’ recommendations and search results” and noted that “there e may need to be new obligations to ensure the continued availability of PSB on-demand content to viewers”.