Up next — a new broadcasting white paper published by the government in the United Kingdom, confirms the intention to sell off Channel 4 and give public service broadcasters more freedom to fulfil a simplified set of objectives. There will be legislation to ensure that their programmes are always carried and easy to find on connected devices and online platforms, including smart televisions, set-top boxes, and streaming sticks. Online video services will become subject to a new video-on-demand code.
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said the plans “will revamp decades-old laws to help our public service broadcasters compete in the internet age”.
The current remit for public service broadcasters was last updated in 2003. The new legislation will give public service broadcasters, namely the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and Channel 5, greater flexibility to meet their obligations, including reaching audiences online.
It is proposed that current ‘listed events’, including the Olympic Games, Paralympics, World Cup, FA Cup Final, Grand National horse racing and Wimbledon tennis finals will be available specifically to public service broadcasters, and this could extend to online video rights.
The government will also give the communications regulator Ofcom powers to draft and enforce a new video-on-demand code, similar to the broadcasting codes and in line with its standards, to apply to online video services which target and profit from audiences in the Unite Kingdom, including Netflix. The maximum fine could be up to 5% of the revenue of an organisation.
The government will press ahead with plans to move Channel 4 out of public ownership and will remove a restriction which effectively prohibits it from producing and selling its own programming. Channel 4 will still be required to commission a minimum volume of programming from independent producers, in line with the quotas placed on other PSBs, to protect its contribution to the sector.
Existing obligations in terms of regional production outside of London and England will be maintained, as will its remit to provide distinctive, educational, innovative and experimental programming that represents the breadth of society, and obligations to show ‘original’ programmes and provide high quality news and current affairs.
Some of the proceeds of the sale, which could produce anything between £500 million and £2 billion, will be used to deliver “a new creative dividend for the sector”.
The government will also act to protect the ‘terms of trade’ to protect independent producers when negotiating deals for new shows and update the regime to address the increasing importance of on-demand commissioning to both public service broadcasters and independent producers.
Prominence regulations will be updated to ensure that public service programming is readily available to as wide an audience as possible and easy to find.
The first five slots in electronic programme guides are currently reserved for public service channels, but the rules do not extend to on-demand platforms, such as the user interfaces on smart televisions.
The government will update prominence rules so popular online TV platforms, which are likely to include smart televisions, pay-television services, streaming sticks and set top boxes, are legally required to carry designated public service broadcaster on-demand services and give them prominence, as determined by Ofcom, so they are easy to find on user interfaces in the future.
The rules will require public service broadcasters to ‘offer’ their on-demand services to platforms, while also requiring platforms to ‘carry’ these on-demand services.
Up next — the government’s vision for the broadcasting sector is published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and is available from the government web site.