UK govt launches Media Bill, with Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime under tighter regulations

The UK government has unveiled its draft Media Bill, which aims to enable public service broadcasters (PSBs) to better compete with the leading streaming services.

Pubcasters such as the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, STV and S4C under new draft legislation will receive new privileges and freedoms in order to help them grow, produce more high quality British content and invest in new technologies to keep up with the streamer giants.

The draft bill will ensure video on demand viewers can more easily discover PSBs services such as BBC iPlayer and ITVX on smart TVs, set-top boxes and streaming sticks. It also includes new rules to make video on demand content more accessible to those with seeing and hearing impairments.

On top of this, the new bill sees popular streaming services consumed in the UK, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ subjected to a new Ofcom content code, designed to protect audiences from a wider range of harmful material – such as misleading health claims.

The new proposal will allow VoD viewers to be able to formally complain to Ofcom, and strengthen its duty to assess audience protection measures on VoDs such as age ratings and viewer guidance. The UK media watchdog will have more robust powers to investigate and issues fines of up to £250,000 or restricting a service’s availability in the UK.

Culture secretary Lucy Frazer said: “These new laws will level the playing field with global streaming giants, ensuring they meet the same high standards we expect from public service broadcasters and that services like iPlayer and ITVX are easy to find however you watch TV.”

Our Bill will give these brilliant broadcasters and our legendary radio industry the tools to keep doing what they do best – nurturing the creative talent and skills that fuel the UK’s booming production industry, whilst making outstanding shows that we can all enjoy.”

Dame Carolyn McCall, chief executive, ITV plc said: “We welcome the publication of the Media Bill today as a decisive staging post on the journey to a modern and flexible regulatory regime for TV and media in the UK. This Bill will modernise the framework for a Public Service Broadcasting system that is the cornerstone of the £116bn creative economy. The UK is a global leader in the creative industries and this legislation will help to maintain and strengthen that position. Given the profound and dynamic changes in the global media ecology the need is urgent and we would encourage the Government to ensure the Bill becomes law as soon as possible.”

Tim Davie, BBC director-general, said: “We welcome the prominence reforms which guarantee all audiences choice and make great British programmes easier to find.” He added,”while we will look at the details closely, the Media Bill is urgently needed and should be passed into law swiftly.”

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