Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV+ could be brought under UK governance as part of stricter rules to protect audiences from harmful material.
It says the proposals would mean audiences, particularly children, would receive a consistent level of protection on video-on-demand services as they do on traditional broadcasters. In a consultation it wants to see how the content standards currently applied to the BBC and Sky might be extended to on demand.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “We want to give UK audiences peace of mind that however they watch TV in the digital age, the shows they enjoy are held to the same high standards that British broadcasting is world-renowned for.
“It is right that now we have left the EU, we look at introducing proportionate new rules so that UK audiences are protected from harm.”
Streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ are not regulated in the UK to the same extent as UK linear TV channels – even though the shows might appear in the same programme guide – such as on Sky Q.
The government says this means there is a gap for existing protections for audiences watching traditional TV and those watching VOD. There are some protections for under-18s but minimal rules exist to regulate content. There are very few rules to protect audiences, for example, from misleading health advice or pseudoscience documentaries.
Some service providers have taken steps to introduce their own standards and procedures for audience protection, such as pin codes and content warnings, but this varies between services, and can be inconsistent.
The consultation will seek views on whether UKI audiences watching ‘TV Like’ VOD should be subject to the sane protections as when watching traditional television. It will also consider whether mainstream VOD services not currently regulated in the UK by Ofcom should be brought within UK jurisdiction to provide accountability to UK audiences who use them.