Ofcom details plans to implement Media Bill

Ofcom’s HQ (Source: Ofcom)

UK media and telecoms watchdog Ofcom has published its plans for implementation of the government’s Media Bill, including the timeline for implementing measures to ensure the prominence of public service broadcasters’ streaming services, changes to PSBs’ remit, listed sporting events, regulation of on-demand services and changes to the way Channel 4 works.

Regarding the availability and prominence of PSBs’ on-demand players, Ofcom’s provisional timetable includes consultations kicking off in October following the anticipated passing of secondary legislation in the summer.

Ofcom is planning separate consultations on platform designation recommendations and on how PSB players, including commercial services, will be designated (with a separate process covering the BBC iPlayer).

Decisions on which PSB players will qualify will be made in spring 2025 with a list published in the summer, and a list of designated platforms in October- December.

PSB prominence

This process covers new rules to ensure online PSB services are both available on popular TV platforms and capable of being easily found and discovered by audiences, with the list of ‘designated platforms’ likely to include both smart TVs and set-top boxes that enable users to access on-demand apps.

Qualifying on-demand players must be capable of making “a significant contribution to the fulfillment of the PSB remit.”.

The process for the modernization of PSB’s remits will follow a similar timetable, with amended licences to be in force by January-March 2026.  PSBs collectively will have an updated and modernised public service remit deliverable across a broader range of audio-visual services, including their on-demand players.

The PSBs will remain subject to quota obligations, including obligations to commission content from independent producers and to produce content outside of London. but for the first time they will be able to deliver on many obligations via on-demand services as well as linear channels.

There will also be some changes to listed sporting events that must be made available widely because of ‘national interest’ in them. Currently, qualifying services include linear channels that are available free to 95% of the population. In future, only services provided by PSBs will qualify. Streaming services that acquire exclusive live rights may need to apply to Ofcom for consent.

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