It’s been a busy week in the streaming world (for one company, in particular), but the UK government has seen fit to add yet more news to the seemingly endless cycle.
In a long-awaited White Paper released by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, ministers have proposed a variety of regulatory changes set to impact the ways in which streaming services, public service broadcasters (PSBs) and tech giants interact with one another.
Headlining the proposals is a call to make platforms like Netflix and Apple TV Plus adhere to a new code from The Office of Communications (commonly known as Ofcom) – one which would give subscribers the power to complain about potentially harmful material on streaming services – but a less widely-reported change would also require major TV manufacturers to ‘carry’ on-demand PSB apps on their smart display models as standard.
What does that mean, exactly? Essentially, the likes of Samsung, LG and Sony will soon be forced to include BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, My5, STV Player and S4C Clic apps on new and existing smart TV models.
The same rules will similarly apply to platforms like Sky and Now TV, as well as streaming sticks including the Roku streaming stick 4K and Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max.
The UK government hopes the move will improve the ‘prominence’ of Britain's PSBs in the age of streaming, giving more visibility to the apps home to UK-produced movies and TV shows (like Peaky Blinders and Killing Eve).
Existing broadcasting laws ensure that the first five channels UK viewers find when switching on their TVs are PSBs, but the current rules don’t extend to the myriad of equivalent on-demand platforms.
Admittedly, most smart TVs and on-demand platforms do already carry apps like BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and All 4, though there are some exceptions (LG models don’t feature All 4, for instance, while Welsh entertainment service S4C Clic can rarely be found on any smart TVs). The new proposal encourages a blanket approach applicable to any brand operating in the UK.
Should these brands fail to adopt the aforementioned PSB apps on their platforms, Ofcom would have the power to impose fines, gather information and intervene in disputes, the White Paper suggests.
Broadcasters like the BBC and ITV have been lobbying for the introduction of so-called ‘prominence legislation’ such as this for several years. Right now, the proposals remain as such, though the White Paper is expected to evolve into a formal Bill presented to Parliament soon.