MEDIA REGULATOR Ofcom has called for new legislation to protect public service broadcasters from the rise of streaming services and Pay TV.
It argues that in order to stay competitive, the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and that other one should have priority billing on TV platforms and their content given due-prominence on streaming platforms.
The fear is that smart TV and set-top box UI designers could 'bury' existing services to prioritise their own or those for which they're being paid to promote. Anyone who has an LG Smart TV will know it's almost impossible to get it to stop banging on about Rakuten. Under the proposals, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and All4 would be guaranteed due-prominence on Sky, Virgin Media and smart TV interfaces.
Existing rules mean that linear platforms already have to give the first five slots to BBC1, BBC2, ITV, CH4, CH5 and prominent slots to sister channels like ITV2 and BBC4.
But the same courtesies are not afforded to streaming services, meaning that Netflix (or whoever) could take steps to give themselves top billing. This matters, because many people are going straight to the online service and bypassing the on-screen linear TV guide altogether.
In a statement, Ofcom said: "Public service broadcasting is now at a crucial juncture, as broadcasters face unprecedented competition from global on-demand and internet services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube.
"We are recommending to government that new rules are established to ensure that PSB [public service broadcasting] content is clearly visible on major viewing platforms, such as smart TVs, set-top boxes and streaming sticks."
But, there's a twist. Because neither Amazon, nor Netflix require a licence from Ofcom, any legislation wouldn't apply to them and they would therefore not be forced to put their BBC and ITV content front and centre, and there's very little anyone can do about it.
With plans to bring Britbox to the UK, which will be made up of content from BBC and ITV, there's an argument that this is actually pretty fair, but with several high profile streaming services from the likes of Disney and Discovery in the pipeline, the marketplace is going to become ever more crowded.
Sky argues that this is unfair, that they already do this and a better approach would be to unshackle some of the regulations that currently cover public service broadcasters, a view shared by the BBC which has been vocal about its struggle to keep up with competitors due to restrictions not applied to commercial broadcasters.
The government has made no indication as to whether it is interested in adopting the proposals. μ
Being in a minority of one doesn't make you right
WeWork needs a rework
Because who wants any surprises
Viv-oh no they didn't