UK gov’t to regulate streamers as super-indies face scrutiny

I May Destroy You

Streamers such as Netflix, Disney+ and Apple TV+ are to be regulated in the UK for the first time, while super-indies are set to face new scrutiny over their ‘independent’ status, following a set of proposals from the UK government.

The far-reaching White Paper, released today, promises to deliver a “new golden age of programming” by updating “decades-old broadcasting regulation” and ushering in new reforms.

Remits & regulation

Changes to streamer regulation – a move first unveiled by the government last year – will see OTT services’ activities fall under the scrutiny of UK media regulator Ofcom, requiring them to meet similar standards as broadcasters in the country.

Doctor Who

The regulatory push is designed to protect audiences from “harmful material”, such as unchallenged health claims, according to the UK culture secretary Nadine Dorries.

She added that the changes would allow public service broadcasters to compete with global streamers.

“Set against the backdrop of the digital transformation of our viewing habits, today’s plans will revamp decades-old laws to help our public service broadcasters compete in the internet age,” Dorries said.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said that the new proposals would allow Ofcom to create a new code of practice for streamers, covering areas such as accuracy, privacy and fairness.

Breaches would see streaming companies facing a fine of up to 5% of its revenue or £250,000 ($313,000).

PSB prominence & super-indie status

A simplified remit for PSB’s will also be drawn up, with a focus on creating shows that reflect British culture and support local production firms. The White Paper pointed to UK successes such as Doctor Who, I May Destroy You, The Great British Bake OffLuther and Planet Earth.

The status of super-indies in the UK is also to be investigated, following years of growth that have seen some production groups now bigger than the broadcasters that commission them.

The Great British Bake-Off

“The government will review whether to introduce a revenue cap for ‘qualifying independent’ producer status to make sure it remains effective for promoting growth,” it said.

Rules designed to support indie producers will also be updated to reflect the effects of streamers on the commissioning process.

The White Paper also detailed plans to improve the prominence of public service broadcaster content online.

PSB linear channels have to date always occupied the first five channel slots on EPG’s but as more viewers shift to using global streaming services and smart TV’s, the organisations have complained that securing prominence has become harder.

Details of the proposals are scant but the plan would see legislation passed to provide PSB’s with better positions for their shows and services online.

The paper, which also contained more details about the government’s plan to privatise Channel 4, was welcomed by ITV, which said its proposals – “notably reform to prominence and inclusion rules, a more flexible approach to remits, and changes to the listed events regime – look very sensible.”

C4 reiterated that it was against privatisation, the BBC did not immediately comment, and Netflix repeated that it would continue to work with the government on the proposals.

“As we’ve previously said, we are supportive of measures to update the legal framework and bring our service in the UK under Ofcom’s jurisdiction,” the world’s biggest streamer said. “We look forward to reviewing the White Paper’s other proposals and continuing to engage with the government on their plans.”

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