The BBC is calling for a dedicated button to provide a shortcut to its services on all television remote controls. The bid for a special button is part of its formal response to the Draft Media Bill, which among other things seeks to maintain the prominence of public service broadcasters. However, the idea of a special button on remote controls is not currently in its scope.
The United Kingdom Draft Media Bill was published at the end of March and includes proposed provisions to maintain the prominence of public service broadcasters like the BBC.
In its written evidence to the DCMS Committee Inquiry on the Draft Media Bill, the BBC calls it a welcome and urgent intervention that should be passed into law as soon as possible. However, it says the devil is in the detail and it believes additions are required.
Among its suggestions are a dedicated button for public services on remote controls.
Many television products now feature dedicated buttons to provide convenient one-touch access to services like Netflix. These are generally the result of commercial agreements between manufacturers and media service providers. They can also be a benefit to users and a selling feature for products.
A special Netflix button first appeared on remote controls in the United States in 2011. The Netflix red button started to feature on remote controls in products in Europe in 2015. Buttons for other services, including Amazon Prime Video and Disney+, have also started to appear on products.
“Remote controls are a major gateway to content on TV sets and user interfaces — their importance demonstrated by fierce competition between the largest content providers for branded buttons,” the submission suggests.
“There should be a requirement for a dedicated PSB button on remote controls in instances where there are similar buttons for non-PSB audio-visual services, or a direct route to PSB apps from the remote in other instances (such as a long press on a numbered button).”
Anticipating possible objections to this, the BBC says it does not believe that this would contravene international trade rules of the World Trade Organisation. These prohibit measures that are protectionist. The BBC says its suggestion does not favour producers of remote controls from the United Kingdom and it serves a legitimate objective.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport appeared to rule out the proposal for a dedicated button.
“Ensuring public service broadcasters such as the BBC are easy to discover in today’s highly competitive media landscape is vital,” the DCMS said in a statement. “Television hardware, such as remote controls, is not in scope of our draft Media Bill, but we will bring in proportionate new rules to make sure public broadcasters’ services are shown prominently in the user interfaces on smart televisions, set-top boxes and similar devices.”
The Draft Media Bill is published by the United Kingdom Government and is available on its web site.