UK Media Bill: “It won’t be a revolution but is an important evolution”, says Ofcom’s Kate Biggs

The UK Media Bill “won’t be a revolution but it is an important evolution” for public services according to Ofcom’s director of content.

Speaking at the DTG Summit in London today, Kate Biggs pointed that new launched government bill as an “urgent evolution of that framework” of the 20-year-old Communications Act that has been focused around linear channels.

The UK government’s Media Bill was announced in March aimed 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.

She urged the importance of that bringing those online services under the Media bill that provides a “more service neutral approach” to public services.

The new bill sees streamers 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.

A representative of a streamer was not present at the event, but Magnus Brooke director of strategy, Policy and Regulation, ITV highlighted the new regulations placed on a service like Netflix made sense, where you have raise an issue with a Dutch regulator, which he describes as “slightly odd and Brexit”.

The new proposal will allow VoD viewers to be able to formally complain to Ofcom which 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.

However Brooke noted a grey area of FAST channels also being regulated under the draft, but clarified “it is about drafting, the intent is clear.”

“It’s the level playing field and what we’re seeing in the market is a wide array of FAST channels so why wouldn’t there be regulated, it’s a logical starting point,” said Channel 4, director of strategy & consumer insight, Khalid Hayat.

The Channel 4 exec also explained the bill will also be instrumental in building digital growth, boosting ratings and diversifying revenue base away from linear advertising.

“The service digital approach to PSB is really important, he explains. “Going forward it is important we think about what our business model will look like over the coming years and thinking about how the market’s going to change over the coming decades, and how the media bill will allow the regulatory regime to kind of keep pace with that market that.”

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