What are the rules that streaming services could soon face in the UK?

May 19, 2022
Max Gruber 0
Streaming Service

Ofcom, the UK’s broadcast regulator, is preparing to regulate Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and other streaming services, potentially signalling a turning point for the country’s television industry.

The Government will empower the UK’s media watchdog to write and implement a new video-on-demand code aimed at establishing criteria for “bigger TV-like providers,” such as Netflix and Now TV, in order to level the playing field with conventional broadcasters.

The white paper also mentions “boosting” public service broadcasters (PSBs) and establishing a standardised remit for them, which will replace a “complicated set of ‘purposes’ and ‘objectives’ from laws passed in 2003” with a new definition of what constitutes a PSB, which includes providing “distinctive, diverse British content” that captures British culture, promoting homegrown film and TV production, and providing “impartial and accurate news.”

Let’s take a look at the new proposals that the streaming giants could face in the UK. 

Ofcom regulations

On-demand services, with the exception of BBC iPlayer, are not covered by Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code, which outlines harmful or offensive content as well as accuracy, equality, and privacy obligations. “There are limited protections for under-18s,” the research notes, “but there are little rules in place to protect audiences from, for example, inaccurate health advice or pseudoscience programmes.”

The Government wants Ofcom to have the authority to design and implement a new code, comparable to the Broadcasting Code, to guarantee that streaming services “that target and profit from UK audiences” are accountable to “stricter rules protecting UK audiences from harmful material.” “This will largely be directed at larger ‘TV-like’ video-on-demand (VOD) providers, such as Netflix, ITV Hub, and (Sky’s) Now TV, and level the rules between VOD firms and conventional broadcasters,” according to the white paper.

Support for independent TV

The UK Government also wants to carry on the growth of the nation’s independent TV productions. The Government will assess whether a revenue cap for ‘qualified independent’ producer status should be introduced, in order to ensure that it stays successful in fostering growth. 

The white paper also suggests that current guidelines aimed to safeguard independent producers when negotiating new programme deals be changed “to accommodate the rising relevance of on-demand commissioning to both PSBs and independent producers. It will also assess whether portions of it should be extended to radio and audio producers who generate BBC content.”

What is Ofcom?

Ofcom is a government authority regulated by parliament that is usually linked with supervising the information we view on our televisions.

All commercial television and radio services in the United Kingdom are licensed by the regulatory body and must adhere to its requirements or risk having their broadcasting rights withdrawn. The regulator ensures that people are safe from dangerous or objectionable material, unjust treatment, and invasions of their privacy.

They also handle public complaints regarding television content; if broadcasters are found to be in violation of the watchdog’s criteria, investigations can be conducted and consequences imposed. 

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When these rules come into effect, we’ll be ready and waiting to tell you how much has changed for your favourite streaming services and if our critics have really noticed the difference. In the meantime, keep up to date with all the latest TV show reviews as well as what’s new on every streaming service.