The government has signalled that the big streaming companies will be regulated by Ofcom in the UK in the same way that broadcasters like the BBC and ITV are.

The proposed change to the regulatory system comes as part of a landmark White Paper released by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which proposes a variety of changes to the UK broadcasting sector. The changes will be put to Parliament next month.

The DCMS argues that while an estimated three in four UK households have an SVoD service,  services like Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video are not regulated in the UK to the same extent as UK linear TV channels. Netflix and Apple TV+ are not regulated in the UK at all.

Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code covers the traditional broadcasters and sets standards for content including harmful or offensive material, accuracy, fairness and privacy.

It also exists to protect audiences from misleading health advice or pseudoscience documentaries.

The government will give Ofcom powers to draft and enforce a new Video-on-Demand Code, similar to the Broadcasting Code and in line with its standards, to make sure VoD services are subject to stricter rules protecting UK audiences from harmful material.

The government says this will primarily be aimed at larger ‘TV-like’ video-on-demand services such as Netflix, ITV Hub and NOW TV and level the rules between VoD services and traditional broadcasters.

UK viewers will be given new powers to complain to Ofcom if they see something concerning. Ofcom will be given a strengthened duty to assess on-demand providers’ audience protection measures such as age ratings and viewer guidance, with powers to force changes if necessary.

The maximum fine for regulated VoD services will be £250,000 or an amount up to five per cent of an organisation’s revenue, whichever is higher.


Jon Creamer

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