BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 want top billing on Netflix, Amazon Prime

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The leading public broadcasters in the UK have published an open letter urging the Government to support local networks against the rise of international streaming services.

Signed by Carolyn McCall (CEO, ITV), Tony Hall (Director General, BBC), Alex Mahon (CEO, Channel 4), James Currell (President, Viacom UK), Simon Pitts (CEO, STV) and Owen Evans (CEO, S4C), it speaks of the "global commercial battle going on to shape and influence what we watch, listen to or buy from the comfort of our homes".

TV as a community service

The letter, published by The Guardian, requests that the Government mandate that video platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime give the content produced by the broadcasters more prominent placement.

"Public service broadcasting is essential to our culture," reads the letter.

"It supports social cohesion, informs our understanding of the world, shapes public debate and contributes to our global soft power. It is also vital to our democracy, reaching tens of millions of people each week with high-quality, accurate and impartial news, covering events in the world around them, at home and abroad. 

"In an era of fake news, echo chambers and social media filter bubbles, Ofcom data tells us that TV remains the most important and trusted source of news for UK citizens." 

Support and struggle

Ofcom, the UK regulator for communications, gave its support for the idea, but noted that it would require new legislation in order for any such change in listings to take place.

The government has set a precedent for this before – somewhat ironically requesting that the BBC show more British-made content. However, it's a tough battle ahead for the broadcasters – they would be doing battle with numerous platform holders in order to force through any change, including smart TV manufacturers and set-top box makers.

The likes of Sony, Google and Roku, as well as apps like Netflix, have all invested heavily in algorithms to tailor viewer recommendations with the aim of keeping eyes glued to their screens. It's unlikely they're going to undermine these valuable data-generating practices, nor wish to demote their own revenue-driving shows and movies, without a fight.   

Via The Guardian