U.K. Unveils New Draft Media Bill


The U.K.’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport has issued the draft of a new Media Bill, which will see streamers being brought under Ofcom regulation and additional freedoms for broadcasters to help them compete with the global giants.

As part of the draft legislation, mainstream SVODs such as Netflix and Disney+ will be brought under a new Ofcom content code to protect audiences from a wider range of harmful material, similar to the regulations on linear TV. They will need to provide subtitles on 80 percent of their shows. Further, the bill includes actions to help viewers easily discover the PSB-backed online services such as BBC iPlayer and ITVX on smart TVs, set-top boxes and streaming sticks.

Further, the U.K.’s PSBs—BBC, ITV, Channel 5, Channel 5, STV and SC—will benefit from more flexible rules regarding what they are required to air. As previously announced, Channel 4 will no longer be barred from making its own content. Welsh broadcaster S4C will see its geographic restrictions removed.

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said: “Technology has revolutionized the way people enjoy TV and radio. The battle to attract and retain audiences has never been more fierce. British content and production is world leading but changes to viewing habits have put traditional broadcasters under unprecedented pressure. These new laws will level the playing field with global streaming giants, ensuring they meet the same high standards we expect from public-service broadcasters and that services like iPlayer, All4 and ITVX are easy to find however you watch TV. Our Bill will give these brilliant broadcasters and our legendary radio industry the tools to keep doing what they do best— nurturing the creative talent and skills that fuel the U.K.’s booming production industry, while making outstanding shows that we can all enjoy.”

Responding to the draft bill, ITV Chief Executive Carolyn McCall said: “We welcome the publication of the Media Bill today as a decisive staging post on the journey to a modern and flexible regulatory regime for TV and media in the U.K. This Bill will modernize the framework for a PSB system that is the cornerstone of the £116 billion creative economy. The U.K. is a global leader in the creative industries and this legislation will help to maintain and strengthen that position. Given the profound and dynamic changes in the global media ecology the need is urgent and we would encourage the government to ensure the Bill becomes law as soon as possible.”

Maria Kyriacou, Paramount Global’s president for broadcast and studios, international markets, added: “This is vitally important new legislation to ensure that prominence for PSBs is maintained in the age of the smart TV. We hope that Parliament supports and recognizes the urgency of implementing this to underpin the health and vitality of our world-leading British broadcasting and creative sector—and protect it for the future. It’s particularly pleasing that Channel 5’s PSB license has also been renewed, which is great recognition of the ongoing success of the channel and its important role in the public service ecology of the U.K.”