UK Media Bill passed ahead of general election

Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Westminster, London, England, United Kingdom, Europe


The long-awaited UK Media Bill has passed following a government decision to accept two amendments from the House of Lords. The bill had been in some danger of being lost in the ‘wash up’ of pending legislation following UK prime minister Rishi Sunak’s decision to call a general election for July 4.

Julia Lopez

The bill, which will now be forwarded for Royal Assent, passed after media, tourism and creative industries minister Julia Lopez called on the House of Commons to agree to amendments tabled by the cross-bench peer Baroness Bull – the former ballet dancer and broadcaster Deborah Bull – including one demanding the reinstatement of the ‘Reithian principle’ that “public service broadcasting content, taken together, should inform, educate and entertain”.

Bull said in the Lords that “removing the Reithian principle from the Bill effectively limits the definition of the public service remit to a narrow focus on market failure” and that the omission “fails to uphold the fundamental principle that PSBs exist to serve society in its broadest sense”.

Baroness Bull

Another amendment from Bull that was passed by the Lords, and then accepted by the Commons, specifically requires “public service broadcasters to make available content for children and young people that is educational in nature”.

Addressing the House of Commons, Lopez asked that “all amendments to the Media Bill from the Lords be agreed to” and said that “the Media Bill will enable viewers and listeners across our country to continue to access public service television and radio content as technology changes”.

The bill includes measures to ensure that public service broadcaster’s digital apps are more prominent on smart TVs and other devices, that on-demand services such as Netflix will be covered by Ofcom’s content code – thus helping level the playing field with UK broadcasters – and that listed events are updated to ensure that major sporting events are available free-to-view.

More controversially, the bill also repeals a law brought in after the Leveson enquiry into press malpractice (but never enacted) that would have made newspaper owners liable for all costs in libel cases if they did not sign up to the rules of an official Royal Charter regulator.

Ahead of the eleventh hour passing of the bill, a group of senior broadcasters including BBC director-general Tim Davie, ITV CEO Carolyn McCall, Sky CEO Dana Strong and Channel 4 CEO Alex Mahon had publicly called for it to be enacted before the break-up of parliament.

Read Next