The House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee has said obligations on smart TVs, firesticks and set-top boxes to ensure public service broadcasters (PSBs) are prominent on their platforms should be strengthened.
In a report following pre-legislative scrutiny of the Government’s new Media Bill, the Committee says public broadcasters BBC, ITV, STV, Channel 4, S4C and Channel 5 can “thrive” in the world of streaming.
The Committee is calling for PSBs to be given ‘significant’ rather than ‘appropriate’ prominence in listings and searches for content on connected devices, so that public service content is always carried and easy to find.
They’re also recommending a new Video-on-Demand code – aimed at ensuring TV-like content provided by streaming services such as Netflix is subject to similar standards imposed on traditional broadcasters – applies to all VOD platforms and not just those with large UK audiences.
It also urges the Government to retain the obligations of PSBs to provide specific genres of content. As it stands the Bill keeps a keeps a requirement to provide news and current affairs, but removes genres such as a religion, international matters and science. The MPs believe this could lead to a decrease in provision in less commercially successful content.
Dame Caroline Dinenage MP, Chair of the CMS Committee, said: “Our Public Service Broadcasters play a central role in enriching our culture, society and democracy and this Bill is critical to ensuring they continue to thrive. With significant legislation like this coming along only once in a generation, it is vital the Government gets it right. Our proposed changes to the Bill will ensure it is proportionate, future-proofed in a world of shifting viewing habits and rapid technological change, and most importantly in the very best interests of viewers and listeners. It is vital that the Government prioritises the legislation in the upcoming fourth session of this Parliament.”
The Bill is expected to appear in the Government’s new legislative programme, announced in The Kings Speech on November 7.