BBC director general Tony Hall and Channel 4 chief exec Alex Mahon have jointly called on parliament to ensure prominence for PSB content across all devices.
In speeches to an event in Parliament yesterday, both Mahon and Hall argued for new legislation that would ensure PSB content would be on the front pages of all devices used to watch TV content from Apple TV boxes to Amazon Firesticks to Playstations.
They argued that prominence on new streaming devices and Smart TVs was dictated solely by the manufacturers of the devices, and completely bypassed current legislation that ensures PSB prominence on traditional EPGs.
Mahon said that “The percentage of households with a connected TV, including streaming sticks and consoles, has risen from 30% in 2012 to 77% in 2017. Our old ways of thinking about people making choices through the prism of TV listings and Electronic Programming Guides or EPGs have already changed hugely – and will only continue to do so.”
She said that on newer devices “British viewers are directed to content through the user interface of the device manufacturer not through the EPG that Parliament has so carefully legislated around, and that Ofcom has powers to regulate. None of these devices are regulated for prominence – and we are facing the prospect of a new generation of viewers who will be unable to find PSB content as they go to watch TV.”
Both argued that the current situation was harmful in an era of ‘fake news.’ ““In a world of fake news, disinformation and state propaganda this debate has to be about giving everyone access to impartial, trusted sources of news when they’re being bombarded with the opposite,” said Tony Hall.
Hall also said that ensuring prominence for PSB content was vital for children. “I’m sure everybody in this room wants future generations to easily find content that reflects our culture – and our values. And I think you’d all agree that CBeebies and CBBC do just that …. where else are you going to find content like Newsround, or ‘Own It’ – which helps children navigate the world online,” said Hall. “It’s about us working with you to help protect childhood.”
Hall and Mahon jointly called for an update to an amendment to the Digital Economy Act that was proposed by the PSBs last year. Labour peer Lord Woods tabled an amendment 2017 that would make Pay TV platforms give PSB prominence on their ‘front pages’. It was defeated in the Commons and Ofcom was charged with reporting by 2020 on how prominence can be ensured on new devices and pay TV operators.
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