Ofcom gains powers to regulate streaming platforms

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has unveiled new plans for Ofcom to regulate streaming platforms to protect “the audience” from “harmful material”.

The government will give the UK media regulator the power to draft and enforce a new video-on-demand code aimed at setting standards for “major TV-like services” such as Netflix, ITV Hub and Now TV to help the rules to level with traditional transmitters.

The maximum penalty for breaching the Code is £250,000 or an amount equal to up to five per cent of their earnings – whichever is greater.


Culture Minister Nadine Dorries said the plans would “overhaul decades-old legislation” (Steve Parsons/PA)

Ofcom will also be given an “enhanced duty” to assess protections such as age ratings and viewership, with the power to force changes under the new proposal.

The government said the plans would include measures to protect audiences from a wider range of harmful material, citing undisputed health claims and pseudo-scientific documentation.

The white paper released on Thursday signals the framework for Channel 4’s privatisation.

Privately owned, Channel 4 will have access to capital and the freedom to create its own content, allowing it to diversify its revenue streams, it said.

It’s trying to use some of the proceeds from the sale of Channel 4 to deliver a new creative dividend for the sector.


White paper could herald Channel 4’s privatization (Philip Toscano/PA)

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A consultation will also be launched on new rules to ensure broadcasters such as the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 produce “distinctively British” programmes.

The government cited historical drama Downton Abbey, sci-fi series Doctor Who and searing rape drama I May Destroy You as examples that “reflect a vision of a modern-day United Kingdom”.

The white paper also proposes the possibility of securing the rights to Air TV’s major sporting events, such as the Fifa World Cup and Wimbledon, which are exclusive to public service broadcasters (PSB) through reforms to the listed events regime.

Similarly, the government will update prominence rules to legally require online TV platforms to offer PSB on-demand services such as BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub, and will prominence them so they can be easily found on the platform.

It will also set a new mandate for the PSB quota, which currently requires broadcasters to air a minimum amount and variety of public service content.


Downton Abbey has been cited as an example of a ‘distinctively British’ show (Ben Blackall/PA)

The culture secretary said the plans would “overhaul decades-old legislation” to help PSBs stay competitive.

“The UK television and radio industry is world-renowned for its creativity, driven by exceptional talent delivering groundbreaking public service programmes.

“Against the backdrop of the digital transformation of how we watch, today’s plans will overhaul decades-old legislation to help our public broadcasters compete in the internet age and herald a new golden age for British TV and radio.

“This will create jobs and growth going forward, along with the content we all love,” Ms Dorries said.

In a statement, ITV said: “We welcome the Government’s recognition of the tremendous value that public service broadcasters bring to the UK and its decision to introduce a Media Act to introduce the necessary reforms to enable public service broadcasters can also be successful in the future in view of the market changes.


DCMS Chairman Julian Knight called for clarification on radio’s role (Chris McAndrew/PA)

“We’ll be looking carefully at the contents of the white paper once it’s released, but many of its proposals — notably reform of prominence and inclusion rules, a more flexible approach to assignments, and changes to the regime for listed events — seem very reasonable.” ”

In a statement, Netflix said: “As we have said before, we support action to update the regulatory framework and bring our service under the jurisdiction of Ofcom in the UK.

“We look forward to examining the other proposals in the white paper and continuing to engage with the government on their plans.”

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport chief Julian Knight said: “The rules ensuring major sporting events are accessible to all free of charge have not kept pace with rapid changes in viewers’ viewing habits.

“With many more people now watching online or catch-up, rather than huddled around a TV with friends and family, the government must ensure the promised regimen review for staged events extends protections of the sporting crown jewels to include digital and on-demand content.

“With the proposals announced today aimed at helping public service broadcasters thrive, it is puzzling why there is a deafening silence about the role of radio and how it is to be supported. This needs to be corrected if audiences are to enjoy a new golden age of programming as promised.”

https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/ofcom-to-be-given-powers-to-regulate-streaming-platforms-41594806.html Ofcom gains powers to regulate streaming platforms

Fry Electronics Team

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