DCMS “pressing ahead” with pro-competitive Digital Markets and Media Bills

The UK government plans to update its communications laws for the first time in two decades, with it “pressing ahead with the pro-competitive interventions” in its Digital Markets and Media Bills, according to media minister Julia Lopez.

Juila Lopez

Juila Lopez (Source: Gov.UK)

During her keynote speech at the DTG Summit in London in this week, Lopez said it comes as part of the government’s efforts to meet the increasing challenges that UK broadcasters are meet with, amidst a sector that is rapidly evolving.

She cited in the five years from 2017, broadcast TV has fallen from 91% to 79%, while the number of households subscribed to a video-on-demand service has more than doubled.

The minster explained broadcasters are facing the pressures of, “being asked to serve an ever wide variety in the ways we watch TV. At home, on the go; on the small screen and the big. High end drama and lean back daytime. ”

“Too often innovative products and services are held back by self appointed gatekeepers,” Lopez said. And I understand the commercial imperatives that many of you are governed by. But the Government will continue to encourage long term thinking that recognises that, when it comes to innovation in TV, this doesn’t have to be a zero sum game.”

She added, “We will continue to champion, in particular, the vital role that our public service broadcasters play in bringing high quality public service content to our screens,” she added.”

The Media bill was published last year. It will see streamers and other online video services placed under media and telecom regulator Ofcom’s jurisdiction, and includes rules to ensure greater prominence for UK public service broadcasters’ offerings on major platforms. It also enables pubcaster Channel 4 to produce and own rights to its own programmes – something it has not been allowed to do in the past .

Speaking at DTG Summit, Lopez said it also plans to update its “outdated and inconsistent” regulatory regime of TV operators.She raised the point of Ofcom’s broadcasting code not being extended to on-demand and streaming platforms.

She used the example of the popular Gordon Ramsey series Hell’s Kitchen which airs on ITV2 after the watershed, due to explicit language, however is available to watch on-demand or on FAST platforms throughout the whole date, without being regulated.

“When ITV puts that previous episodes of the same show on their on-demand service, it doesn’t have to comply with that Code – and you can’t complain to Ofcom if you see something inappropriate. Thankfully ITV have nevertheless voluntarily put robust audience protection measures in place,” said the minister.

She added, “From a compliance perspective, this is already starting to sound complicated. And that’s before we add in internet delivered television, like the Hell’s Kitchen FAST channel, which can be found on some smart TV’s electronic programme guides and broadcasts episodes “round the clock”

The Media bill will see the creation of a new Video-on-demand Code, that will ensure mainstream VoD services are to comply with. The UK government will also have consultation on updating the boundaries of linear regulation by designating additional electronic programme guides.

Lopez said, “together, these changes will give audiences more confidence in adopting new services, and give broadcasters the fair and level playing field they need to ensure that it is the best content that wins out.”


The minster also said the government was committed to the future of DTT until 2034. with IPTV to be become a significant factor of how television will be distributed in the future. She said they will be looking at evidence along with reports from Ofcom on the matter.

“Its not a decision we can or should take in isolation. We have to look at the evidence……not just what is happening now – but to look ahead to ten years’ time, she said. “Not just a simple dichotomy between DTT and IPTV – but the potential to enable audiences to choose between multiple competing platforms, just as they can now.”

Lopez revealed the government is set to publish an independent research on the topic, including by “99% of homes will have an IP enabled TV”by 2040.

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